Asian Football Tournaments to go ahead this year, says AFC Official
Asia’s top football competitions will plow ahead this year despite the coronavirus pandemic, a senior official told AFP, although games may need to be played behind closed doors.
Windsor John, general secretary of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), said he was confident that the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup would both be completed.
Both tournaments, featuring teams from throughout Asia, Central Asia and therefore the Middle East , are on hold until a minimum of the top of June after COVID-19 shuttered professional sport worldwide.
“Both will be played this year. We still have time,” John told AFP, adding that new dates for the competitions could also be known by the top of April. However, John didn’t rule out matches being played without fans “if that is what the health authorities need”.
The AFC is decided for both tournaments to travel ahead “for sporting reasons and to fulfil commercial obligations”, he said. His comments came after the AFC on Tuesday announced the indefinite postponement of all matches scheduled for May and June thanks to the virus.
The Champions League, the region’s premier club competition, and therefore the second-tier AFC Cup were both halted in March because the pandemic’s spread forced governments to impose strict travel restrictions.
Both tournaments are on an increasingly tight schedule, with the 32-team Champions League needing to complete four rounds of group-stage matches in July before the postponed knock-out phase begins in August.
The group phase of the AFC Cup also will need to be completed during a rush once matches resume. The finals for both tournaments — which traditionally take a break in July, to avoid the worst of the Asian summer heat — are scheduled to take place in November.
Domestic leagues remain on hold round the world, including in China where the virus first emerged, but where football shows no sign of returning despite optimism the outbreak is in check .
Asia’s extended shutdown, announced on Tuesday, also affects the two-legged women’s Olympic qualifying play-off between China and South Korea , which had already been moved to June 1 and 9.
June qualifiers for the men’s 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup had been postponed before the AFC’s announcement on Tuesday.
Asian football was an early sporting casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, before competitions in Europe — including Euro 2020 — and therefore the remainder of the planet were also affected.
News Courtesy: AFP