The Asian Football Confederation praised China for the "difficult choice" to withdraw as the country battles to stamp out the virus with rapid lockdowns and mass testing.

The AFC did not name a new host, saying only that
The AFC did not name a new host, saying only that "further steps" would be announced in due course. (AP Archive)

China has withdrawn as the 2023 Asian Cup host due to the coronavirus as the country battles its worst outbreak since the early days of the pandemic.

The announcement from football officials on Saturday is the latest cancellation of the country's sports hosting duties during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said it had been "officially informed by the (Chinese Football Association) that it would not be able to host" the tournament.

"The AFC acknowledges the exceptional circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to the relinquishment by (China) of its hosting rights," the governing body said in a statement.

The confederation also praised Chinese soccer officials for making “this very difficult but necessary decision in the collective interests of the AFC Asian Cup.”

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Next host to be announced in due course

The 24-nation competition was due to be played across 10 Chinese cities in mostly newly built stadiums in June and July next year.

The AFC did not name a new host, saying only that "further steps" would be announced in due course.

China's withdrawal could let Qatar or Saudi Arabia step up as hosts while both are bidding in a contest to host the 2027 edition.

India and Iran are also candidates for the 2027 edition with a decision expected early next year.

The four-yearly Asian Cup is traditionally played in January and February.

Qatar (2011) and Australia (2015) hosted the tournament when it was played in January, while the 2019 event in the United Arab Emirates was held from January 5 to February 1.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies