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AFC Asian Cup 2027: AIFF pulls out from host bidding race; here's why

AFC Asian Cup 2027: The bidding race for the tournament's host was on, with India and Saudi Arabia being the final two bidders in the race. However, AIFF has decided to pull out of the race, and here is why.

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First Published Dec 5, 2022, 3:25 PM IST

India on Monday withdrew its bid to stage the 2027 AFC Asian Cup, with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) declaring that hosting big-ticket events is not among its "strategic priorities" at this juncture. India and Saudi Arabia were the only two countries left as bidders to host the 2027 continental showpiece after nations such as Iran and Uzbekistan pulled out of the race in October. India's bid was launched amid much fanfare in 2020 when Praful Patel was the AIFF president. Still, the current dispensation under Kalyan Chaubey feels "building the foundations of football structure" through grassroots and youth development was more important than hosting significant events.

"As per the strategic roadmap of the federation, which will be announced later this month, the AIFF management thinks hosting big events doesn't fit into the federation's strategic priorities. Our current focus is building the foundations of a proper footballing structure before thinking of hosting bigger events like the AFC Asian Cup," the AIFF said in a release, quoting its executive committee.

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Chaubey said India has always been "a wonderful and efficient host" to big tournaments, like the recently-concluded FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. Still, the focus will shift to strengthening the country's football at every level, from grassroots to youth development. "The EC has decided that the overall strategy of the federation currently focuses on the fundamental goals to strengthen our football at every level from grassroots to youth development," he said.

"At the same time, we must also strengthen our stakeholders, especially the State Associations and work closely with the clubs to bring about a change in every aspect of football at the domestic level. All such aspects will be implemented when the roadmap is announced later this month," added Chaubey.

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AIFF secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran said, "Our strategy is straightforward. We must focus on developing the game on a priority basis before planning to host major international competitions. Hosting competitions requires great resources and sometimes encourages the tendency to take major issues away from our focus. Our focus should be on taking Indian Football forward together."

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said it will present Saudi Arabia's bid to host the 2027 tournament to its Congress, to be held in February in Manama. "The AIFF has officially notified the AFC of their decision to withdraw their bid from the AFC Asian Cup 2027 host selection process," read the AFC's statement.

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"The AFC Congress will decide the final host in Manama, Bahrain, in February 2023. Following the withdrawal of the AIFF bid, SAFF's bid to host the 19th edition of the AFC Asian Cup in 2027 will now be the only one presented to the 33rd AFC Congress for consideration," added AFC. The 2023 edition of the AFC Asian Cup will be held in Qatar after the original host China expressed its inability to stage the tournament due to the COVID-19 situation in that country.

(With inputs from PTI)

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