2021 Malaysia Cup winners Kuala Lumpur City were drawn to play 2018/19 Piala Indonesia winners PSM Makassar in the 2022 AFC Cup group stages, setting up an intriguing encounter for Kuala Lumpur head coach Bojan Hodak. The Croat had previously taken charge of PSM during the 2020 season and left the Juku Eja due to the abolishment of the 2020 season following the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia. Having guided Kuala Lumpur to their first major silverware in 32 years, Bojan’s efforts were rewarded with a reunion against his former team in yet another heated clash between Indonesian football and Malaysian football.
Both Kuala Lumpur and PSM were drawn into Group H, alongside Singaporean giants Tampines Rovers and 2019 Myanmar National League champions Shan United. PSM were initially set to start their Asian campaign from the qualifying play-offs, but the dissolution of Vietnam’s Than Quang Ninh and the ineligibility of the Philippines’ Azkals Development Team meant that they’ve received a free pass into the group stages.
Another Indonesia-Malaysia rivalry clash was generated in Group G, with 2019 Liga 1 Indonesia champions Bali United facing off against a much-changed Kedah Darul Aman. The Red Eagles lost a number of key players during the off-season, mainly their devastating African duo Kpah Sherman and Kipre Tchetche, who both went to Terengganu FC, Brazilian defender Renan Alves who went to Indonesia to join Barito Putera, and influential captain Baddrol Bakhtiar, who left Kedah after serving them for 16 years to join Sabah FC.
Aidil Sharin Sahak’s men did receive some reinforcements though, in the form of Cameroonian striker Ronald Ngah, who impressed many in the 2021 AFC Cup with Jordanian side Al-Salt, Syafiq Ahmad who came in on loan from Johor Darul Ta’zim, Penang trio Azmeer Aris, Amer Azahar and Al-Hafiz Harun, all of whom guided the Panthers to an impressive 3rd place finish in the Liga Super Malaysia last season, and former Selangor defender Rodney Celvin.
Bali United did not come unprepared though and while they retained a good majority of their squad from recent years, they’ve replaced Melvin Platje with Jean Befolo Mbarga, who felt that he had some unfinished business with the AFC Cup following his superb performances being snuffed out by the abolishment of the 2020 edition of the tournament.
Joining Bali United and Kedah in Group G are Filipino giants Kaya FC-Iloilo, and the qualifying play-off winner between Laos’ Young Elephants and Cambodia’s Visakha FC.
Vietnamese giants Viettel FC found themselves as being the country’s sole representative in this year’s AFC Cup, following Quang Ninh’s dissolution and Duoc Nam Ha Nam Dinh’s refusal to participate in the tournament. The Red Tornado were drawn in Group I, the last of the three groups comprising the ASEAN Zone, alongside Singapore’s Hougang United, Cambodian champions Phnom Penh Crown, and Myanmar’s Hantharwady United, who, like PSM, were the beneficiaries of Quang Ninh’s dissolution and the ADT’s ineligibility to participate in the tournament.
The ASEAN Zone’s first matches will be played out on June 24th of this year, with said matches being held in centralized venues.