NOTE: This is the UNEDITED version of the article that was published in the Shenzhen Daily on 1st June, 2015.
With the recent announcement of China hosting Hong Kong at Bao’an Stadium in Shenzhen (Thursday 3 September), Bhutan at Helong Stadium in Changsha (Thursday 12 November), the Maldives at Wuhan Sports Center Stadium in Wuhan (Thursday 24 March 2016) and Qatar at Shaanxi Province Stadium in Xi’an (Tuesday 29 March 2016), Chinese football fans can get excited about these international fixtures.
Having said that, the thought of southern China hosting a major football tournament crossed my mind. When the People’s Republic of China hosted the 2004 AFC Asian Cup, it was held in just 4 stadiums, spread from Beijing to Chongqing. I believe that a far more effective plan would be to hold the AFC Asian Cup in a region that would minimise long flights or road trips – which is why I believe that southern China would be ideal for such a tournament.
Southern China has a number of stadiums that would only need the construction of VIP facilities as well as other minor improvements to bring them up to FIFA and AFC standard today
Using the United Arab Emirates model of requiring 6 stadiums, I came up with 7 stadiums in southern China that are either currently used or have recently been used as football stadiums. I have included their seated capacity for football:
- Guangdong Olympic Stadium (80,000)
- Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center (60,334)
- Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou (58,500)
- Helong Stadium in Changsha (55,000)
- Guiyang Olympic Sports Center (52,500)
- Bao’an Stadium (40,000)
- Century Lotus Stadium in Foshan (36,686)
In addition, China has plenty of hotels to house the millions of fans that would flood into the country into the numerous airports around the country. The public transport links to and from the stadiums would need to be improved in some cases but this can easily be handled by increasing capacity on the existing or under construction metro lines in China right now. In addition, the high speed rail network could be utilised to effectively transport fans across the country to other games.
There are plenty of VIP hospitality facilities in every city; although it is most likely that Guangzhou would be the host city for this hypothetical AFC Asian Cup. The work that is being done by provincial governments across China shows the commitment towards environmental and sustainability initiatives – this would satisfy many of those that vote on these matters. Further to that, the investment by the owners of Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao F.C. in their academies (among other clubs) shows that the private sector is willing to invest in such a project as well.
There are also thousands of universities and training facilities that could be selected for team base camps. I am sure that many universities would work hard to prepare themselves for the travelling teams, regardless of how extravagant the demands of some teams.
When it comes to setting up fan parks, China is a country blessed with plenty of open spaces for fans to mingle and watch games on giant screens for the duration of the tournament. The people of China are big fans of the sport, as shown by the passionate and rabid support of club teams both at home and abroad, so I can see public support for such a bid.
Would I support a bid for China to host the AFC Asian Cup? Absolutely – I see no reason why the hotbed of football fans in China would not support the millions of fans that would travel from all over Asia and indeed all over the world to attend this event.
So I nominate Southern China to be the hosts of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup – do you?
NOTE: I am aware that China is the host of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. I am also aware that none of the stadiums will be in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Changsha, Guiyang or Foshan.