Southeast Asia Vietnam

OFFICIAL: AFC Cancels ASEAN Zone Matches for 2021 AFC Cup

With no country willing to host matches for this year’s AFC Cup involving Southeast Asian teams, the AFC has taken the difficult decision to scratch the entire ASEAN Zone off the competition, with the confederation declaring all the results of the region as null and void.

The decision was made after the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for countries to nominate themselves as hosts for the ASEAN Zone, forcing the AFC to call off the entire section in order to ensure that this year’s AFC Cup would finish in a timely manner.

The ASEAN Zone of the AFC Cup consists of Groups G, H, and I, with the AFC providing a brief hope spot on Tuesday that the section’s matches will be held as planned following their decision to include play-off participants Visakha FC of Cambodia and Lalenok United of East Timor into Group I, with the two teams filling in the spot of the supposed play-off winner between the two and Kaya FC-Iloilo of the Philippines, who have qualified to the 2021 AFC Champions League group stages.

Group G consists of Hanoi FC of Vietnam, Bali United of Indonesia, Boeung Ket FC of Cambodia, and the play-off winner between FC Chanthabouly of Laos and Kasuka FC of Brunei Darussalam.

Group H has Kedah Darul Aman of Malaysia, Lion City Sailors of Singapore, Sai Gon FC of Vietnam, and Indonesia’s Persipura Jayapura.

Last but not least, other than the aforementioned Visakha and Lalenok United, Group I also has Geylang International of Singapore and Terengganu FC of Malaysia.

Singapore were initially appointed as hosts for Groups H and I, however the rising COVID cases within the island nation forces authorities to enforce stricter quarantine measures, ensuring that AFC Cup matches would be impossible to be played within Singaporean soil.

In fact, COVID-19 cases within the Southeast Asian region showed a significant increase as of late. Strict movement control regulations meant that AFC Cup games couldn’t be held in either Malaysia or Vietnam, while Thailand was already occupied with their AFC Champions League hosting duties.

Cases in other Southeast Asian nations are also showing a rising trend and while the AFC have offered Indonesia with hosting rights for ASEAN Zone matches, the explosion of cases within the archipelago have forced the government to place a strict control order on the islands of Java and Bali, with the same explosion of cases forcing the 2021 Liga 1 Indonesia season to be postponed until at least late August.

The lack of any stadiums capable enough to hold AFC Cup games in such short notice outside of Java and Bali as well as the complicated travel arrangements brought on by the pandemic also forces Indonesia to not take up on the AFC’s offer.

With nobody willing to host the ASEAN Zone matches, the AFC had to cancel the entire section to ensure that this year’s AFC Cup will continue on without any interruptions in its current format, with a similar uncertainty also surrounding the South Asian Zone.

Group D, consisting of ATK Mohun Bagan of India, Bashundhara Kings of Bangladesh, Maziya S&RC of the Maldives, and the play-off winner between India’s Bengaluru FC and Club Eagles of the Maldives, is also seeking a host after the rise of COVID-19 cases within South Asia forces the Maldives to relinquish hosting rights.

And while India’s recent massive outbreak made it impossible for AFC Cup games to be held within the country, Group D were given a lifeline after Bashundhara Kings offered to have the group’s matches to be played in Sylhet, Bangladesh.