The Amazing History of the Asian Cup Soccer Tournament

Soccer, or football, is one of the most popular sports around the world, and it might stay this way as the sport gains admiration. In the wake of a global realization about the importance of sports, careers in sports, and the infinite talent that a myriad of people have, more opportunities have come forward, especially in soccer, with soccer tournaments being more common. 

An increasing number of countries have begun paying attention to their national soccer teams by sponsoring them and encouraging more people to showcase their athletic talents, for example, the World Cup Soccer Tournament. A similar attempt was the Asian Cup soccer tournament initiated by the Asian Football Confederation. 

Asian Football Confederation

The Asian Football Confederation, otherwise known as AFC, is one of the confederations in FIFA. There are five other confederations that FIFA consists of. The AFC governs football in Asia and Australia, primarily, and has 47 member countries. These include most countries in Asia, Australia, Guam in the USA, Northern Manila Islands in the USA, Hong Kong, and Macau. 

The AFC was created in 1954 in Manila, Philippines, but the headquarters of AFC are in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is currently presided by Salman Ahmad Ibrahim, from Bahrain. It made the first ever Asian Cup tournament to take place and has been continuing to do so ever since, with the cooperation of its diverse group of member countries. The aim is to become the leading confederation globally and encourage teams from Asia. 

History of the Asian Cup

Players playing football.

The Asian Cup has spanned over more than six decades of history and is expected to stay till football holds a special place in the hearts of the masses. The first ever Asian Cup tournament was held in 1956, and it was decided that a tournament would take place every four years. AFC has stayed true to that decision with the last match played in 2019. 

Most of the member countries of AFC send their teams to participate in the Asian Cup. However, only a small group of teams has been dominating the tournaments, cycle after cycle. The winning teams automatically qualify for the FIFA Confederations Cup after bagging the Asian Cup and being hailed as champions across Asia. 

Even though the situation of the world has been quite different since 2019 due to the spread of COVID-19, but that does not change anything. An Asian Cup tournament is being prepared for and scheduled to occur in 2023, as coronavirus restrictions ease up and the world returns to normal. 

The 1956 Asian Cup 

The 1956 Asian cup was the first ever Asian Cup but was a great success. It was held in Hong Kong, and the South Korean team emerged to be the winner against Israel. The original Asian Cup trophy was revealed during this tournament and was passed around the winning teams till 2019. 

The 1960 Asian Cup

Downtown Seoul. 

South Korea also bagged the second Asian Cup against South Vietnam with a score of 5-1 in the final. This Cup was hosted by South Korea and took place in the Hyochang Stadium in Seoul. 

The 1964 Asian Cup 

The finals of the 1964 Asian Cup were held in Israel through parts of the months of May and June. Israel itself emerged as the champion with three wins, while the Indian team got the runner-up title. 

The 1968 Asian Cup

Five teams contested in the 1968 Asian Cup, with Iran winning the champion title. Iran was also the host country for the finals, which were held in Tehran. The remaining four teams included Burma, Hong Kong, Israel, and China.  

The 1972 Asian Cup

Iran once again bagged a victory at the 1972 Asian Cup finals against Thailand. This tournament was supposed to take place in Israel, but they withdrew, so Thailand replaced it as the host country.  

The 1976 Asian Cup

Iran hosted the Asian Cup finals again after eight years and won them again against Kuwait. Six teams contested in this Cup.

The 1980 Asian Cup

Held in Kuwait, this was the seventh Asian Cup ever to be held. The finals came down to Kuwait and South Korea, and Kuwait bagged the trophy after a very unexpected match. 

The 1984 Asian Cup

1984 was the first time that ten teams participated in the Asian Cup who were divided into groups of five teams. Saudi Arabia won the final for the first time against China. 

The 1988 Asian Cup

Aerial view of Doha. 

The 1988 Asian Cup was held between the Republic of Korea and Saudi Arabia. As anticipated, Saudi Arabia won like a breeze. The city of Doha in Qatar was the host for this final. 

The 1992 Asian Cup

The 1992 Asian Cup was held in Hiroshima, Japan. Similar to last time, Saudi Arabia contested in the finals but was met with defeat against the host country Japan. 

The 1996 Asian Cup

The 1996 Asian Cup was hosted by the UAE, which also contested the finals against Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, UAE lost on home ground. 

The 2000 Asian Cup

Held in Lebanon for the first time, the final ensued between Saudi Arabia and Japan. Japan was successful in defeating its opponent with a score of 1-0. 

The 2004 Asian Cup

Beijing’s skyline. 

The 2004 Asian Cup took place in China. The final match was played between China and Japan, leading to a well-deserved win for Japan. Riots outside the stadium marked the final by Chinese fans expressing anti-Japanese sentiments. 

The big shift

The Asian Cup has never shied away from switching up the dates of their tournaments. It has always considered the climate of its host countries and announced dates based on the weather that would allow for a comfortable environment for matches. 

These shifts are uncommon with the Asian Cup, but the biggest shift was made after the 2004 Cup. The four-year cycle that the Asian Cup worked around intersected with the Summer Olympics and the European Football Championship. As a result, it was proposed for the Asian Cup to move to a less crowded cycle. 

The next Asian Cup was held three years after the one in 2004, and the four-year cycle resumed after the 2007 Cup. 

The 2007 Asian Cup

The 2007 Asian Cup was the first ever to be co-hosted by four countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. The final was unexpectedly held between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, at the end of which Iraq became victorious. 

The 2011 Asian Cup

Qatar reemerged as a host for the Asian Cup in its 15th edition. It was a 1-0 win for Japan against Australia. 

The 2015 Asian Cup

Sydney’s Opera house. 

The 2015 Asian Cup was the first to be hosted by Australia and won by Australia against South Korea. As a result, Australia became the first ever team to be the champion of two confederations, AFC and OFC. The Asian Cup matches were held in different cities across the country. 

The 2019 Asian Cup

Aerial view of the Burj Khalifa. 

The 17th edition of the Asian Cup was held in 2019, making it the most recent Asian Cup to take place. Held in UAE over the month of January, this Asian Cup was the biggest ever to have been held. It expanded from the historical 16 teams to 24 teams contesting this year. 

Unlike ever before, Qatar won this tournament against Japan in the final, after a heated match. This win was Qatar’s first ever top-five finish as well. 

Conclusion

The rich history of the Asian Cup is undeniable and results from a lot of team efforts both on the field and outside the field. It has transformed the football scene across Asia, a region where careers in sports are not necessarily looked up to. It will continue to do this and inspire more people to pursue their soccer dreams.