Saudi Arabia to miss out as hosts of 2019 Asian Cup because of policy on women
Saudi Arabia is likely to miss out on the chance to host the 2019 Asian Cup finals over its policy of not allowing single women into the country.
Several other factors could deprive Riyadh of hosting the prestigious continental finals, but the fact that women supporters without male relatives could not enter the kingdom was a critical minus, an official from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) said, local daily Al Sharq reported.
The official, who was not named by the newspaper, reportedly said that Saudi Arabia had no problem in organising the finals and in the number of people who would attend the matches.
“Saudi Arabia has impressive experience in organising mass gatherings, as is clear from its hosting of the annual pilgrimage, and there is no doubt about its capability to ensure the success of the finals,” the official said. “However, there is the crucial issue of allowing women supporters in stadiums. Several countries have companies that organise trips for the games and these invariably include women. The problem is that Saudi Arabia does not allow women who do not have male relatives with them to enter the country.”
Ruling out the Saudi bid would cause deep disappointment in football crazy Saudi Arabia where stadiums are often filled with spectators in white kandouras wildly cheering their teams.
Scores of Gulf women, including from Saudi Arabia, were seen encouraging their national teams at the Gulf Cup tournament hosted by Bahrain in January.
Initially, 11 countries said that they were interested in hosting the 2019 Asian Cup finals. However, three – Lebanon, Malaysia and Myanmar – have pulled out of the race. The remaining countries are Bahrain, China, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and the UAE.
The deadline for the submission of all the documents has been extended to August 31.
AFC is scheduled to hold a workshop on bidding processes on September 10-11 in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur during which information on the rights, roles and responsibilities, AFC’s requirements and other major elements on hosting the competition will be given to the bidding countries.