With rising COVID-19 cases in Asian countries, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has suggested staging its club competitions AFC Champions League (ACL) and AFC Cup in carnival format for this season, at selected venues instead of home venues of respective participants.

If this plan proceeds, this would be the second season for the said format as the AFC have successfully organised previous season’s ACL fixtures in Doha, Qatar involving 26 teams from both east and west zones.

Selected hosts will be assessed by their capabilities to fulfill relevant logistics requirements, including the utilisation of a video-assisted-referee system (VAR), accommodation and medical infrastructures.

The ACL 2021 group stage is scheduled to take place from 14 until 30 April 2021 for the West Zone, while the East Zone will play their matches from 21 April until 7 May 2021, with each team from every group will play six matches. Group winners and six best second-placed teams from all groups will advance to the knockout stage.

As for the AFC Cup group stage, the South and East zones’ fixtures will commence from 14 until 20 May 2021; 23 to 29 May for the West Zone, and 22 to 28 June for the East Zone, all at designated venues.

For the ASEAN Zone, each team will play three matches, followed by the semifinals on 10 or 11 August, then the final on 25 August.

The winner of the ASEAN Zone will play against winners of the South, Central and East zones in the ‘inter-zonal’ semifinals in September, with the final for the AFC Cup 2021 will be played on 26 November.

The AFC general secretary Datuk Windsor Paul John confirmed the development as reported in the news, last month.

“It’s a yes (on the new format), however, we will make an official statement on that matter in near future. We will also announce the venues for the AFC Cup. We have communicated with all member associations on this development. At present, this only involves the AFC Cup. As for the ACL, we shall look to decide,” he said.

The official draws for ACL and AFC Cup 2021 will be held on 27 January at the AFC House in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur. 

This season, Brunei will be represented by Kasuka FC that will play Lao Toyota in the ASEAN Zone’s Round 2 preliminary playoffs for the AFC Cup.

This article was first published on January 23, 2021 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 125

The Bruneian | KUALA LUMPUR

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