China has pulled out of hosting the 2023 Asian Soccer Confederation (AFC) Asia Cup, a doable signal the nation’s strict zero-Covid policy might stay in place for a while to return. China pulled out of hosting the following year’s Asian Cup last week, with the Chinese country following its stringent zero-covid strategy. Beijing’s continued implementation of its stringent zero-Covid system has dealt yet another setback to the nation’s sports ambitions.

The withdrawal comes with additional bitterness, given China has spent years, and tens of millions of dollars, trying to strengthen its football programme. The decision to forgo a spot in next year’s Asia Cup final, made last weekend by China, amid Covid-19 uncertainties, leaves Chinese football facing an uncertain future. China has refused to hand over the rights to host the AFC Asian Cup 2023 Finals due to the COVID-19 situation in the country. China has decided not to host the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, to be held in 10 Chinese cities between June 16 and July 16 2023.

The Chinese Football Association (CFA) announced the names of the ten host cities of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in China. On May 14, 2022, the AFC announced that host countries will not be allowed to host the 2023 AFC Asian Cup because of circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and China’s zero-COVID policy. The host nation participated in the Second Round solely to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup since it had initially been qualified for The AFC Asian Cup automatically as the host nation.

The AFC acknowledged exceptional circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, leading China to waive its hosting rights, the confederation said in a statement Saturday, adding the decision was difficult. Confirming the decision to withdraw from hosting, the Chinese Asia Cup organising committee said Saturday the difficulties caused by Covid-19 meant that China could not at the moment promise to organise a quadrennial tournament.

Fever dreams The unexpanded World Cup was handed over to The UAE, and the rights for the Asian Cup are now being handed back, leaving China’s hopes for hosting The World Cup looking little more than a fever dream in Covid-19. The grinding effects of the global health crisis and China’s push for the Covid-19 strategy, combined with growing difficulties in the commercial sector, which funds many Chinese clubs, have left Chinese soccer in tatters. The AFC recognises the extraordinary circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to the Chinese pulling the plug on hosting China. In a statement Saturday, the confederation said adding the decision was difficult but necessary. The CFA said it was committed to working closely with the AFC and the host cities in order to deliver a remarkable, stunning Asian soccer festival. By hosting the 18th edition of the AFC Asian Cup, the CFAs goal is to facilitate the implementation of the Chinese Soccer Reform Plan through modern infrastructure, more successful programs meant for the youth, and the promotion of the grassroots game.