The much-awaited AFC Women’s Asian Cup will no longer be held in Bhubaneswar next year as the Asian Football Confederation has dropped the Odisha Capital city and Ahemdabad from the list of venues.
As per the fresh announcement, the Mumbai Football Arena at the Andheri Sports Complex and the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi, Pune have been chosen as the new venues for the newly-expanded and biggest-ever edition of the Continental women's football showpiece.
"The decision was confirmed taking into careful consideration the existing challenges caused by the pandemic," the AFC stated in a press release.
The football body has said that the move is aimed "to minimise the travelling time for teams and officials between the venues, whilst ensuring the optimum environment to implement the Bio Medical Bubble for the benefit of all stakeholders."
"The 37,900-capacity DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai will remain as one of the three stadiums that will stage the AFC Women's Asian Cup India 2022 which is on schedule to take place from January 20 to February 6, 2022," the AFC was quoted as saying by the PTI.
Speaking about the change in venues, President of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Chairman of the Local Organising Committee, Praful Patel said, "The organisers had to adapt as the situation evolved and there was a need was to create a bio-secure bubble. Hence, we chose Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Pune, venues in close geographical proximity with stadiums that have previously hosted major football competitions."
Patel also thanked the governments of Odisha and Gujarat, states that were slated to host the tournament previously.
Hosts India along with Japan, Australia, China PR and have already secured final berths while 28 other teams across eight groups will kick off their quest to clinch the eight remaining spots to join the quartet when they play out the qualifiers for the tournament in September this year.
Group A will feature three-time champions Chinese Taipei, Bahrain, Turkmenistan and Laos. Similarly, Group B will see Vietnam, Tajikistan, Maldives and Afghanistan compete for a place in the Finals.
Asian powerhouses and three-time title holders DPR Korea have been placed in Group C alongside Singapore, Iraq and Indonesia with Myanmar, United Arab Emirates, Guam and Lebanon completing the line-up in Group D.
With PTI inputs.