Football Tribe SEA Editor
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have announced that with the agreement of member football federations of the confederation’s East Zone, matches of this year’s AFC Champions League group stages involving teams from the East Zone will be pushed back due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. Consequentially, the dates for the knockout stages involving teams from the East Zone will be extended to allow more time for the matches disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak to be completed.
In an emergency meeting in Kuala Lumpur, both the AFC and the East Zone member federations agreed to move the group stage matches disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak in March and April to May 19th-20th (Matchday 3), May 26th-27th (Matchday 4), June 16th-17th (Matchday 5), and June 23th-24th (Matchday 6). Consequentially, the round of 16 matches will be pushed back to August 11th and 12th with the return fixtures to be played two weeks later, while the quarterfinals are now scheduled to be played on September 15th and 16th, with the second legs to be played on September 29th and 30th. The semifinals will be played on October 20th and 21st with the second legs to be played a week later, while the final will be unchanged, being played on November 22nd and 28th as scheduled.
In the light of this, the AFC plans to hold another meeting next week on March 16th, where they will release an updated list of the matches affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The AFC have also placed safeguards should domestic football continues to be suspended in China, South Korea, and Japan, which sees the group stages for the East Zone being wrapped up as late as July in order to ensure that the ACL will finish within this year.
“These are challenging, and unprecedented times and we are grateful that everyone has come together to try and find a solution which works for everyone. As the AFC President, Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has already stated, the AFC will not put anyone at risk during these times of heightened health concerns and so we have taken some sensible decisions to postpone both matches and events,” said AFC General Secretary Dato’ Windsor John as quoted from the official AFC website, “The AFC hopes that there is a quick and safe end to this current situation and that we can return to normality where football can play a role in bringing some joy and entertainment to people’s lives. Our support and sympathies are extended to communities affected.”
The AFC will hold a similar meeting regarding matches affected by the COVID-19 outbreak with member football associations of the confederation’s West Zone this weekend.