New regional competition offers further chances for Vietnamese football

Wednesday, 2019-11-06 09:38:52
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Vietnamese clubs can qualify for the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup if they win the inaugural ASEAN Club Championship. (Photo: AFC)
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NDO – Vietnam football representatives will have further opportunities to compete internationally at the club level as the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) has officially announced a new tournament for leading teams in the region.

On Tuesday evening (Nov. 5), the AFF’s website announced that the inaugural ASEAN Club Championship (ACC) will officially start next year, with the participation of 12 leading clubs from among the AFF member associations.

The special feature of the new tournament is that the champions will win the right to join the final rounds of the expanded 24-team FIFA Club World Cup – the 2021 version of which is to be held in China – to compete with the world’s top names in football.

“Designed to support and incentivise the leading clubs, the AFF believes that the ACC will be the key platform for the next stage of regional development for the top flight professional game,” the AFF’s announcement said, adding that the tournament will provide a focus on enhancing the experience at each venue, for fans and players alike, whilst also rewarding successful team performances throughout. Accordingly, each club will receive a participation fee from the earliest rounds, together with escalating prize money as they progress through the championship.

According to AFF President Khiev Sameth, the introduction of the ACC would raise the standard of the national teams and enhance the profiles of the clubs as well as leagues in the region. “The ACC will also help clubs to improve their financial standing, promote sports tourism and enhance the football experience for the 650 million football supporters in our region,” he said.

Sameth stated that the ACC final plan was discussed at a meeting of the AFF Special Council in Ho Chi Minh City last week, before being approved with the utmost consensus from representatives of AFF members present at the meeting. In addition, the ACC also receives absolute support from FIFA – the governing body of world football and the Asian Football Federation (AFC). "We shared our plans for the club championship with FIFA President (Gianni) Infantino and (AFC President) Shaikh Salman and they were both supportive,” said Sameth.

Stressing that the ACC was a “culmination of many intense months of hard work,” the AFF President said that the tournament was born only after AFF has considered a range of factors to ensure that ACC does not conflict in scheduling with the domestic leagues, FIFA and AFC fixtures, including that of the expanded AFC Champions League.

According to Sameth, FIFA’s decision to change the format and increase the number of teams participating in the FIFA Club World Cup from 21 to 24 teams in 2021 is the motivation for the ACC to be born. “The prospects of playing in the expanded FIFA Club World Cup is enticing and will translate to among other things greater investment by league and clubs in the region, thus contributing to the further growth of the football ecosystem in Southeast Asia,” added Sameth.

In addition to higher competitions on the continental level, including the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup, Vietnamese football representatives will be able to compete in the ACC – a more fitting tournament in Southeast Asia. It is noteworthy that opening the opportunity to join the FIFA Club World Cup through the ACC is entirely favourable. As in the 2019 AFC Cup, Vietnam had two representatives, namely Hanoi FC and Becamex Binh Duong FC, and both performed well against strong rivals in the region before encountering each other in the 2019 AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Final. After beating their domestic rivals, Hanoi even reached the Inter-Zone Final, before unfortunately dropping out to DPR Korea's 4.25 SC at the threshold of the overall final of the AFC Cup 2019. If they play well in the ACC, Vietnamese clubs can absolutely dream of being eligible to play with famous names from around the world at the FIFA Club World Cup.

The complete details of the ACC will be revealed at a later date, as per the AFF’s announcement. Currently, Vietnam has two representatives who are likely to be eligible to compete in the inaugural ACC, Hanoi FC and Ho Chi Minh City FC. Hanoi won the domestic double titles as they claimed both the 2019 V.League 1 championship and the National Cup trophy, while the latter came second in the recently-concluded V.League 1 and won the Bronze Medal in the 2019 National Cup.

AFF has previously conducted a biennial ASEAN Club Championship in 2003 and 2005 that featured the champion clubs from the AFF member associations. However, the competition was later discontinued.