Beijing, Jan 9 (IANS) Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general secretary Windsor John has spoken highly of China’s preparations for the 2023 Asian Cup amid the COVID-19 pandemic, voicing his confidence in China to “deliver a tournament to remember”.
“The AFC has been working closely with the Local Organising Committee (LOC) as well as the Chinese Football Association (CFA),” John said in an online interview on Friday, Xinhua news reports. “The co-operation between all parties has been smooth.”
“We have seen some great progress already in key areas since the AFC and CFA hosted the Asian Cup 2023 Kick-Off Meeting in July 2019,” he added.
According to the AFC, the Joint Kick-Off Meeting was held in Beijing in January 2020, which built an effective working relationship to guide venue construction. In October last year, the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 LOC was established in Beijing.
“Such cooperation early in the planning for what will be the biggest and most-watched AFC Asian Cup in history has been invaluable,” John noted. “At the beginning of 2020, the sudden outbreak of the pandemic halted many football matches but did not disturb the preparatory work.”
“There has also been significant development in the construction of football-specific stadiums and there is no doubt that China will provide the perfect platform for the competition.”
China has planned to build and renovate 10 stadiums in the 10 host cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Dalian, Qingdao, Xiamen, and Suzhou. Renovation work is already underway in the iconic Beijing Workers Stadium while the main part of the new Pudong Stadium was completed in late 2020 and the other eight grounds are in differing stages of development.
“We have a timeline for all the venues to be completed at least six months before the first match of the competition,” John revealed.
“Work is on-going every day and we are pleased with the progress,” John said. “The ingenuity, creativity, and dedication of the Chinese people is world-renowned, and I am confident that China will be able to host a unique Asian football festival.”
The Asian football governing body confirmed on Thursday that the tournament will be held from June 16 to July 16 in 2023. John said the dates allow the competition to be staged with maximum media and fan engagement. “Along with the LOC, we have a desire to reach 10 billion engagements through this tournament,” he added.
Through the tournament, China will show the world that it can successfully stage one of the biggest competitions, “and I have no doubt that they will do just that,” John said, noting that it will be a significant stepping stone to achieving the objectives set out in China’s football reform plan.
“The AFC is always there to support the CFA and we are sure that the AFC Asian Cup will be a significant moment in the next stage of the growth of the game in China,” he concluded.