The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has confirmed the venues for both AFC Champions League and AFC Cup 2021 group stages following an extensive feedback exercise with participating member associations, commercial partners and all relevant stakeholders. 

For the West Region’s group stage, four venues from three countries have been confirmed to host the matches, scheduled to take place between 14  and 30 April.

Saudi Arabia will host Groups A and D in Riyadh as well as Group C in Jeddah while matches for Group B will be staged in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. 

For Group E, all matches will be played in the city of Goa, India whose national representative FC Goa is poised to mark the nation’s debut in Asia’s premier club competition.

For the East Region, the AFC has decided to postpone the group stage matches which were originally planned on 21 April to 7 May until June or July 2021, taking into consideration the existing travel restrictions and quarantine challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As for hosting, Thailand has been selected by the AFC to host Groups F, G and J, with the venues for Groups H and I as well as the exact dates for all Groups to be decided and communicated in due course.

Subsequently, all ACL preliminary and playoff matches for the East Region are also postponed and will be played in centralised venues of their respective Group Stage matches.

Image: Xinhua

Moreover, the bidding process for hosting rights opened to all participating member associations commanded a wide range of requirements were put in place to ensure adherence to the highest health and safety protocols and standards. 

These include minimum travel and quarantine restrictions for away clubs, the convenience of flight connections and the medical situation in the host country, sufficient venues to organise the matches and mandatory COVID-19 test to be conducted for all players and officials which costs will be borne by AFC.

General Secretary of AFC Dato’ Windsor John expressed his appreciation to member associations for their interest in hosting club competitions and commitment towards ensuring we continue to place the safety and wellbeing of the players, teams, and officials at the forefront of all of their priorities.

“The AFC is most grateful for the support of the AFC Competitions Committee and our commercial partners and we will continue to safeguard the interests of all stakeholders as we strive to ensure a safe and successful 2021 club football season,” he said.

Meanwhile, for the 2021 AFC Cup, West Zone matches for Group A will be hosted in Manama, Bahrain featuring Al Hidd Club of Bahrain, Al Nasr (Oman), Al Wahda (Syria) and defending champion Al Ahed FC (Lebanon).

For Groups B and C, matches will be played in Amman, Jordan with two host nation’s clubs Al Salt and Al Faisaly are playing in respective groups. 

The rest of Group B are Al Ansar FC (Lebanon), Muharraq Club (Bahrain) and Balata Center (Palestine), while Group C houses Al Seeb Club (Oman), Tishreen (Syria) and the winner of the West Zone playoff match.

In the South Zone, the matches in Group D, which include ATK Mohun Bagan of India, Bashundhara Kings (Bangladesh), Maziya Sports & Recreation (Maldives) and South Zone’s playoff winner will be hosted in Male, Maldives.

The capital city of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan will host home club FC Dordoi, Ahal FC (Turkmenistan) and FC Ravshan (Tajikistan) for Group E matches. 

For Group F, the city of Dushanbe, Tajikistan will provide the backdrop for the matches involving FC Alay (Kyrgyzstan), Altyn Asyr FC (Turkmenistan) and FC Khujand (Tajikistan). The group will be joined by either Uzbek club AGMK FC or FC Nasaf, who will contest the AFC Champions League 2021 playoff match.

For the ASEAN Zone, Singapore has been confirmed as the host for Group H, which comprises home club Lion City Sailors, Kedah Darul Aman (Malaysia), Saigon (Vietnam) and Playoff 2 winner of ASEAN Zone. 

Also playing in Singapore are Group I contenders Kaya FC-Iloilo of the Philippines, Terengganu FC (Malaysia) and host club Geylang International FC.

Subject to results of the AFC Champions League 2021 Preliminary and Play-off Stage matches, one Myanmar representative of either Shan United FC or Ayeyawady United FC, will join the group.

The venue for Group G, also in the ASEAN Zone, will be decided at a later date.

All Group J matches will be played in Hong Kong for the East Zone. The group involves home clubs Eastern Long Lions and Lee Man, Athletic 220 FC (Mongolia) and Tainan City FC of Taiwan.

This article was first published on March 13, 2021 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 132

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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