China has been forced to give the hosting right to the 2023 Asian Cup.
The country is currently battling a coronavirus outbreak considered the worse since the pandemic began. The Asian Football Confederation announced the news formally today.
The event, which is played every four years and features 24 national teams from across the continent, was due to be held in 10 cities from June 16 to July 16 next year.
“Following extensive discussions with the Chinese Football Association (CFA), the Asian Football Confederation has been officially informed by the CFA that it would not be able to host the AFC Asian Cup 2023,” the confederation said in a statement.
“The AFC acknowledges the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the relinquishment by China PR of its hosting rights.”
A new host will be announced in due course by AFC.
The Asian Cup is not the first international sporting event to be canceled as China attempts to tackle the pandemic.
China continues to implement a zero-COVID policy and cities across the country have faced tight restrictions as a result of a recent outbreak of the Omicron variant.
Shanghai has been under lockdown for more than a month while other cities, including the capital Beijing, are facing a wave of additional curbs, frequent testing, and targeted lockdowns.
China has canceled most international sporting events since the pandemic began.
The Winter Olympics were an exemption that went ahead in Beijing under strict health controls in February.
The Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix has been not been held since 2019, while WTA events have been suspended due to a standoff over concerns relating to the safety of Chinese player Peng Shuai.
The Diamond League meets in the country had been called off recently as well.
China was due to host the Asian Cup for the first time since 2004 when the national team lost in the final in Beijing’s Workers’ Stadium to Japan.