Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa says China hosting 2023 Asian Cup 'an important moment for football in Asia'
'Football has the chance to unlock the potential that exists in the world's most populous country'
Hosting the 2023 Asian Cup will help China unlock the potential that exists in the world's most populous country, according to the Asian Football Confederation president.
China was confirmed as hosts on Tuesday at the AFC's Extraordinary Congress in Paris after all the other countries in the running dropped their bids.
Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa said that China's staging of the continental showpiece would serve as a "launchpad" for the country's teams of the future and would help elevate football as its No 1 sport.
"This is an important moment for football in Asia and beyond," said Sheikh Salman, Fifa's second-in-command, who was reelected to a fresh four-year term as AFC president in April.
"Football has the chance to unlock the potential that exists in the world's most populous country.
"We have seen the rise of the game under the direction and investment of the Chinese government.
"Now, we have the chance with this Asian Cup to develop a sure legacy for the global game.
"The Asian Cup can provide a launchpad for the great Chinese football teams of the future and more importantly can place football as the No 1 sport in the country."
China was left as the sole candidate to host the 2023 event after South Korea withdrew their bid last month with Thailand and Indonesia also abandoning plans earlier in the process.
"It's great for China, a great honour for China to be hosts of the 2023 Asian Cup. We are ready and confident of staging a successful tournament," said Du Zhaocai, a Chinese Fifa Council member.
It will mark the second time China has hosted the Asian Cup. They finished runners-up in 2004, losing out to Japan in the final.
The bid proposed 12 candidate cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xian, and there are plans to construct nine new football-only stadiums by the end of 2021.
Staging the 2023 Asian Cup will act as a dress rehearsal to China potentially staging the World Cup further down the line, a stated aim of the country's president, Xi Jinping.
China, who have only qualified once for the World Cup in 2002, are ranked a lowly 74th in the Fifa rankings.
Marcello Lippi, the Italian who guided China to the quarter-finals of the 2019 Asian Cup held in the UAE, was reappointed as manager in May, four months after the World Cup winner quit and following a failed stint by fellow Italian Fabio Cannavaro.
Updated: June 4, 2019 04:52 PM