The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has asked Australia to beef up security for next month's Asian Cup in the wake of the deadly hostage siege in Sydney.

Asia's biggest football tournament will be held for the first time in Australia from January 9-31, and AFC officials are worried about safety plans following the 16-hour siege at a Sydney cafe that left two hostages and their captor dead.

Alex Soosay, the general secretary of the AFC, said he contacted Australia's organising committee (ALOC) on Tuesday, asking for increased protection.

"Thousands of media and fans will be travelling to Australia for the competition, apart from 16 teams, and their security is our utmost priority," Soosay said in a statement.

"We have asked ALOC to provide extra security in team and AFC hotels as well as police escorts for all official activities including training and matches in addition to increase in security across all venues."

Australian police sources said the gunman in the Sydney hostage siege was an Iranian refugee and self-styled sheikh, who was known to the authorities.

The Asian Cup is the biggest football tournament ever held in Australia, and features 16 teams from across the vast region, including Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Palestine, China, Japan, South Korea and North Korea.

Australia has already hosted some of the world's biggest sports events, including the 2000 Summer Olympics, the 2003 rugby World Cup and the 2006 Commonwealth Games but the next few months is looming as an especially busy time.

In addition to the Asian Cup, Australia will also host the cricket World Cup, the Australian Open tennis championship and the opening round of the Formula One world championship.

Source: Reuters