SPL clubs rue AFC Cup cancellation

SPL clubs rue AFC Cup cancellation

KUALA LUMPUR • This year’s edition of Asia’s second-tier AFC Cup club competition has been cancelled amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the continent’s football governing body confirmed yesterday.

The competition, involving teams from more minor nations in Asia, including Singapore Premier League outfits Tampines Rovers and Hougang United, had been suspended since March due to the global health crisis.

It was originally scheduled to resume this month in centralised venues, but with the situation still too volatile, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) decided to activate its force majeure clause.

AFC president Sheikh Salman Ebrahim al-Khalifa said: These are tough times for everyone connected with football – and sport.”

While Tampines, who were leading Group H on seven points, two ahead of second-placed Kaya FC, rued the missed opportunity to advance to the next stage, the club said it understood the reasons.

Coach Gavin Lee added: “It’s a unique position we are in now. There are more important things than football. It’s not time for us to cry about it… We started the (Cup) well and we were targeting to qualify out of the groups – something we came close to the season before – but… we want to move on and look at what we have to play for.”

Unlike Tampines, Hougang were not in an advantageous position, on three points and trailing Group F joint-leaders Ho Chi Minh City and Yangon United by four when play was halted. The club, however, still had a chance to progress on their tournament debut.

Coach Clement Teo is now training his sights on the possible restart of the SPL, which could be later this month, six months after it was first put on ice. They finished third in the SPL last year.

“Naturally, we’re disappointed because this is the first time participating in the competition in the club’s history,” he said. “We felt that there was an opportunity to proceed to the second round.

“But… there’s only so much we can do. With this, we can focus on one single objective, and that is to play in the league and try to do better than we did last season.”

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

• Additional reporting by Kimberly Kwek