The playoff game will be held on August 15, while the Group D matches will begin three days later.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has today confirmed that the AFC Cup 2021 Playoff and Group Stage (South) matches will be held in the Maldives.
India’s Bengaluru FC, the 2016 AFC Cup runners-up, will take on the Maldives’ Club Eagles on August 15 in the playoff match, with the winners joining India’s ATK Mohun Bagan FC, Maziya Sports & Recreation from the Maldives, and 2020-21 Bangladesh Federation Cup winners Bashundhara Kings in Group D.
The AFC Cup (South) Group D matches will be held across three match days on August 18, 21 and 24, with the eventual group leaders advancing to the single-leg Inter Zone Semi-final.
The situation so far
Previously, Khel Now had reported that Bangladesh were among the countries to place bids for hosting the AFC Cup Group D and playoff games. This was after AFC made all participating clubs aware that if no bids came in to host their respective group matches, those games will be cancelled citing a ‘force majeure’ situation.
Prior to that, the AFC Cup 2021 Group D and playoff matches were scheduled to be held in May in the Maldives. However, AFC later postponed the games due to COVID-19. During this period, the Maldives’ minister Ahmed Mahloof also spoke to Khel Now and made it clear that the country won’t host the competition. This was immediately after some Bengaluru FC players broke COVID-19 norms by venturing out of the bio-bubble.
The situation has now changed, with the Maldives getting confirmed as the hosts for the tournament once again.
Meanwhile, both ATK Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC have been active so far in the off-season transfer window, signing new players and retaining key names from last season to bolster their respective squads.
While Mariners have roped in Amrinder Singh, Liston Colaco, Joni Kauko and Hugo Boumous among others, the Blues have extended the contracts of Sunil Chhetri, Suresh Wangjam and Yrondu Musavu-King, apart from acquiring the services of Alan Costa, Prince Ibara and so on.