Chinese fans call out AFC after U23 Asian Cup draw

By Hoang An   November 25, 2023 | 12:30 am PT
Chinese fans call out AFC after U23 Asian Cup draw
China players applaud fans after the match with Australia in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers on Nov. 16, 2021. Photo by Reuters/Satish Kumar
The draw that put China in an arduous group with U23 Asian Cup’s best teams was not publicly broadcast and led Chinese fans to suspect the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) of foul play.

AFC announced a live YouTube broadcast of the draw in Qatar on Wednesday afternoon, but the ceremony did not air for technical reasons.

Only after the group stage draw concluded did AFC announce the results on social media.

Fans at home didn’t get to see the draw process, but representatives of the teams in Doha, Qatar could still watch the entire ceremony.

On leading Chinese online forum Sohu, an account posted an article with the title: "U23 Asian Cup blatantly cheated? AFC cut off live broadcast of the draw and China got into the group of death."

The article attracted 120,000 views.

In the article, the account mentioned that China have played the U23 Asian Cup group stage three times, winning only one and losing 11 matches. This time, the team were placed into an "extremely awful" group, with South Korea, Japan and UAE.

The account said China bought the rights to broadcast the draw, but what they saw was just a black screen.

"I can say that this is almost a blatant fraud," the account wrote. "No one knows how the lots were drawn, and the East Asian teams suffered."

The account also stated the opinion that the AFC is controlled by West Asian countries.

"A representative of Uzbekistan carried out the draw and this team got into an extremely easy group, with Vietnam, Kuwait and Malaysia," it wrote. "Saudi Arabia are also in an easy group with Iraq, Thailand and Tajikistan."

The article received eight comments and all of them criticized the account. One commented: "I'm dying of laughter. Who cares about cheating against China?"

Another commenter responded: "If they cheat, why don't they do it to other teams too? Is it because China are too weak? And if China are strong then why do you have to care about other teams?"

One account said that this is a good opportunity for China to compete with the top teams on the continent, because they never passed the group stage of the tournament before. Southeast Asian teams like Thailand, Malaysia or Vietnam have all done so at least once.

The 2024 U23 Asian Cup takes place from April 15 to May 3 in Qatar, with 16 teams divided into four groups. The top three teams of the tournament will qualify for the 2024 Olympics, while the fourth-placed team will face Guinea in a playoff for the remaining ticket to Paris.

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