Football: India to bid for 2027 AFC Asian Cup

©Gulf News

Dubai: India has formally submitted its bid documents for hosting the AFC Asian Cup in 2027, as per confirmed reports.

With the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) recently extending the deadline to lodge a formal ‘expression of interest’ for three months from March 31 to June 30 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has pitched in along with Saudi Arabia.

“We have already submitted our expression of interest to the AFC. That is what’s required as of now,” AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das was quoted in the Indian media.

Other than India, Saudi Arabia — whose federation have won the continental title three times but never hosted the tournament — is only nation to have publicly announced their intention to launch a bid for 2027 Asian Cup.

Earlier, India had joined the race to host the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, alongside Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea, but pulled out early in October 2018. Later, Thailand and South Korea also pulled out leaving China as the sole country to host the 2023 tournament, that is planned to be held in 10 different cities.

South Korea, which is hosting the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup, is also expected to join India and Saudi Arabia in the bid for the men’s 2027 AFC Asian Cup.

Since successfully staging the men’s Under-17 Fifa World Cup in 2017, India was to host the U17 women’s version in November this year, but this competition has been put off for a later date due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic. India has also been awarded hosting rights for the 2022 Women’s AFC Asian Cup.

“The AFC had hoped to announce the tournament hosts as soon as possible to give them more time to prepare for the quadrennial continental championship, which was expanded to 24 teams for the 2019 edition in the United Arab Emirates,” the AFC had said in a statement last month.

The AFC is now expected to announce the host country early next year. If India wins the bid, it will be the first time the country will host the continental showpiece event.

So far, India had featured four times in the AFC Asian Cup and their best performance was a runners-up finish in 1964 when it was a round-robin tournament without a final and competed among just four teams — hosts and eventual champions Israel, Hong Kong, South Korea and India.

In the other three editions they participated, the Blue Tigers failed to get past the group stages in 1984 and 2011. Their best chance to advance was last year on UAE soil when they started off with a thumping 4-1 win over Thailand, but followed this up with a 2-0 loss against hosts the UAE and an agonising injury time penalty loss to Bahrain.

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