The continental body has also announced protocols for the Champions League and also settled the fate of other competitions in their stable.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and member nations convened online for the Executive Meeting on Thursday, where President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa laid out the roadmap for the future of competitions supposed to be held this year. The common theme surrounded the delay in organizing competitive football and the planned competitions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had widespread implications for football and general health on a global scale.
Speaking on the same, Khalifa reiterated his pleasure on the ability to organize the AFC Champions League knockout rounds and ensure the smooth conduct of the remaining games. He said, “A huge amount of work has been undertaken to ensure these matches can kickoff on September 14 and the AFC has been extremely professional in ensuring that the matches can go ahead safely. It gives some hope to see football back and there has been great work in putting in place the necessary protocols and procedures to keep everyone safe, so we are taking the first steps. We will also work closely with all the stakeholders in Asia and with FIFA to ensure that football continues.”
On the point of the other competitions that were scheduled to be held this year, the committee in liaison with member nations have decided the following:
- The knockout rounds of the AFC Champions League will be played in Qatar. The final will be a one-off game to be played on 19 December 2020.
- The AFC Cup scheduled to be held this year has been cancelled
- The 2020 edition of the AFC Solidarity Cup has also been cancelled and will now be played in 2024
- The AFC U-16 and U-19 Championships have been postponed to 2021
- AFC Futsal Club Championship has been postponed to 2021 and will be held in the UAE
The list of decisions will all be contingent on strict adherence to the Confederation and Host Country Medical Protocols and SOPs that will be followed before matches, upon entry to the stadium.
The delays and cancellations are sure to hit Indian teams like Chennai City FC, who were slated to play in the AFC Cup and the Indian U-16 team, which was supposed to participate in the U-16 Championships. But, on the good side, the youngsters still have time to prepare and be in their best shape for the competition next year.
Speaking on the decisions, President Al Khalifa mentioned, “These are tough times for everyone connected with football – and sport in general. We are taking steps to ensure the financial well-being of the AFC and its MAs. I am certain that with the unity and solidarity for which the AFC has become admired across football, we can overcome this latest challenge.”