In many ways, Asian football is gaining prominence all over the world, be it the quality of the teams or the infrastructure and facilities available.
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar gave the world a glimpse of the world class stadiums and infrastructure available in Asia. In fact, Doha had established itself as a continental power centre when it came to football.
But another Middle-East nation in Saudi Arabia are also establishing themselves as a footballing destination. The latest development in that regard was the country being bestowed the hosting rights for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.
Notably, it is the first time that the premier continental competition is being hosted by Saudi Arabia. It is a recognition of Saudi Arabia's emergence as a serious footballing country.AFC
And it is in large parts thanks to a transformational approach implemented by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF), led by President Yasser Al Misehal and General Secretary Ibrahim Alkassim. There has been a serious overhauling of the country's grassroot programmes apart from nurturing a healthy pool of players, coaches and scouts.
The results are there for everyone to see. Apart from brilliant performances by junior sides in age-group continental tournaments, the Saudi Arabian national team took the world by surprise in the 2022 World Cup.
Pitted against Argentina in the World Cup opener, they were supposed to be pushovers for Lionel Messi's side. But Herve Renard's men stunned the eventual World Champions 2-1 and missed out on qualifying for the Round of 16 only by a whisker.Getty Images
And not to mention the fact that the Saudi Pro League has managed to attract some well-known players like David Ospina, Talisca and Grzegorz Krychowiak. And of course, the star attraction is none other than Cristiano Ronaldo who joined Al Nassr after the World Cup.
SAFF President Yasser Al Misehal emphasized that point when talking to SportPress24 recently. He said, "There is no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the greatest players ever to grace a football field. He is highly respected and adored in all parts of the world. His signing adds enormous value to Saudi football as a whole, not just his new club."
Saudi Arabia are, without a doubt, establishing themselves as a key footballing destination in Asia and the 2027 Asian Cup bid is only a start.
"This is a hugely exciting time for Asian football, and we are delighted to be selected as hosts of the AFC Asian Cup 2027. As three-time winners of the tournament, we have a great history in the competition, but our focus is on the future and growing the game all across Asia," said Al Misehal.
“It’s time to take Asian football to the next level and our efforts as hosts will prioritise that goal," he added.
Asian countries have caught the attention for their on-field performances as well as infrastructure in recent years. While Asian football gains prominence, Saudi Arabia are well-poised to emerge as a key power centre on the continent.