AFC Champions League cannot continue during the spread of Covid-19

Photo: AFC

The AFC (Asian Football Federation) seems to be trying to push the Asian Champions League along despite a major chunk of their members being currently affected by the Coronavirus - COVID-19. The continents minor competition - the AFC Cup will also be majorly affected. 

AFC amazingly try to keep the Asian Champions League running

Amazingly, the AFC have somehow been trying to insist that the show must go on in regards to the Asian Champions League. The Coronavirus, which has now been renamed Covid-19 to ease Chinese glass hearts, has currently affected 25 countries who are AFC members.

However, it is not only the issue of countries that have confirmed cases of Covid-19 that are causing an issue. Just about every country in Asia now has some kind of travel restrictions on other parts of Asia. Either citizens of such and such country cannot enter at all, or they need to go under 14 days quarantine before they are even allowed to mingle with the general public.

There is no way football can continue in Asia while the Coronavirus is spreading, this has implications for domestic leagues, but also continental competitions like the ACL, the AFC Cup, and World/Asian Cup qualifying at the end of March.

The 25 AFC member countries to have confirmed cases of the Coronavirus are:

China, South Korea, Iran, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Thailand, Bahrain, Taiwan, Malaysia, Australia, U.A.E, Vietnam, Macau, Iraq, Oman, Philippines, India, Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

The countries at the higher end of this list, like China/Hong Kong, Iran, Japan, South Korea have travel restrictions placed on their citizens, meaning they cannot travel to other countries in the rest of Asia now. Countries like Taiwan and Singapore have to quarantine for 14 days in some other countries, all these restrictions make even playing in a designated 'safe' country impossible. Therefore I do not see how the AFC can crack on with any kind of continental footy, is there any point playing some games and waiting for the others to eventually play theirs?

Ulsan Hyundai vs Perth Glory debacle 

South Korea right now is the most affected country behind China. Perth Glory was scheduled to travel to Ulsan for the AFC Cup, but they said they were unwilling to travel because of the Coronavirus, plus Australia's government has issued travel advice telling their citizens not to travel to South Korea right now.

This means that if Perth did decide to travel, their insurance would become null and void because they'd have defied the official government advice and went anyway. The AFC often avoid making any decisions, by putting the emphasis on the clubs to sort out the issue between themselves.

That is all well and good, but when Perth refused to travel to Korea, the AFC said that would face a big fine, and banned from the competition for three years. Under the current circumstances, that is ludicrous. Perth Glory was within their right to refuse to travel when the Coronavirus is a pandemic even the WHO won't admit it, it has spread to enough parts of the world to be labelled one.

The decision to insist that Perth travel to Korea was even weirder when the FC Seoul and Chiangrai match in the same competition was postponed until a later date, because of the Coronavirus, and when football across Korea has been postponed too.

Perth have since stood their ground regarding the fixture, with Glory chief executive Tony Pignata saying, "We are prepared to cop a ban for the sake of our staff and players because we can't risk their health and safety."

Perth Glory and Ulsan Hyundai have since agreed to refuse the fixtures, and now Ulsan will travel to Perth for the game next week, instead of Perth going to Korea. This has been accepted by the AFC.

Leagues and matches currently affected by Covid-19

Football in China is postponed completely
J-League (Japan) have postponed their league until March 15th
K-League (South Korea) all matches are postponed until further notice
Hong Kong Premier League matches are being played behind closed doors.

These following matches have also been postponed or rescheduled:

AFC Champions League - Match Day 3

March 2, 2020 (West):
Group A: Al Wahda FSCC (UAE) v Esteghlal FC (IRN);
Group A: Al Ahli Saudi FC (KSA) vs Al Shorta (IRQ) (updated)
Group C: Persepolis FC (IRN) v Al Taawoun FC (KSA)

March 3, 2020 (West):
Group B: Shabab Al Ahli Dubai (UAE) v Shahr Khodro FC (IRN);
Group B: Al Hilal SFC (KSA) v Pakhtakor (UZB) (updated)
Group D: Sepahan FC (IRN) v Al Nassr (KSA)

March 3, 2020 (East):
Group E: FC Seoul (KOR) v Chiangrai United (THA)

Match Day 4
April 6, 2020 (West):
Group D: Al Nassr (KSA) v Sepahan FC (IRN)

Women’s Olympic Qualifying Final Round play-off

The two-legged Women’s Olympic Qualifying Final Round play-off between the Korea Republic and China PR, which was originally scheduled to take place on March 6 and 11, 2020 has been rescheduled.

The first leg between the Korea Republic and China PR is now scheduled for April 9 with the return leg on April 14.

With all these cancellations the AFC should just postpone the ACL and AFC Cup

With the situation getting worse in Asia, and the rest of the world, the AFC should really start to think about postponing their match calendar, because even if the matches are played in countries where the regions top continental competition can continue, without all sides involved playing, there is no reasonable way to complete the competition.  

The AFC have seemingly realized that the show can't possibly go on under the current circumstances because they have organized two meetings to discuss it, one for the East Zone and one for the West Zone. It is going to be interesting what the outcome of those meetings are, but in our humble opinion the show must not go on, the show must be postponed. 

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