HONG KONG - Staging the 2023 Asian Cup finals in China will give the country the expertise needed to pursue President Xi Jinping’s dream of hosting the World Cup and other global tournaments, the Chinese Football Association’s Du Zhaocai has said.
Du, who also represents China on FIFA's decision-making council, hailed the potential legacy of hosting the Asian Football Confederation’s flagship tournament.
"After the Asian Cup, we will have 10 professional football stadiums, which are all modern venues with advanced technology," he was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
"We also plan to cooperate with the AFC and FIFA to cultivate our staff. They will become experienced experts for international football events.
"These will lay a solid foundation for us to host any world-level football tournament."
China has long sought to make an impact at the World Cup finals, with President Xi – an avid football fan – outlining his hopes that the country can host the tournament one day.
However, they have failed to qualify for the finals since their debut in 2002 and are in danger of missing out on the final phase of Asia qualifying for Qatar 2022.
China last hosted the Asian Cup in 2004, reaching the final under Dutchman Arie Haan before losing to bitter rivals Japan.
Construction work at the stadiums to be used in the 2023 tournament suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic but Du said preparations were back on track.
"Although we hosted our first Asian Cup in 2004, its 2023 edition is completely different as it is the first time that the tournament will be held in 10 cities," he added.
"The COVID-19 pandemic made our challenge even harder.
"The construction work of 10 professional football stadiums can't be delayed. We made a very detailed epidemic prevention plan to guide the cities to resume construction.
"In Chengdu and Shanghai, workers went back to the construction sites in February."
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Peter Rutherford)