Tag Archives: AFC Cup

Why the revamped AFC Cup format is a raw deal for India

AFC Cup, 2017, India, South Asia, West Zone, ASEAN Zone, Bengaluru FC, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, New Format

 

Guru Prasad, a football enthusiast from Bengaluru takes a closer look at the new format of AFC Cup.

 

You can follow him on twitter here.

When AFC came out with a new format for the AFC Cup, there were some reports in the media about how the revamped format will be beneficial for Indian clubs participating in the continental championship. However, a closer look at the revamped format reveals that instead of it being beneficial for our clubs, it could turn out to be detrimental for them and in turn it could also take a hit on the member association (MA rankings) for India. MA rankings are used by AFC to determine the number of slots a country gets in the continental championships, the AFC Cup and the AFC Champions league.

First let us take a look at the new format. Starting from 2017,  instead of the two zones, clubs are going to be divided into five zones –  West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and ASEAN. A total of 36 clubs will be competing from these zones. Each zones are allocated teams through direct slots and through play offs.  Slot allocation for the five zones are as follows:

West Asia Zone : 9 direct/3 from play-offs = 12 teams (Three groups)

ASEAN Zone : 9 direct/3 from play-offs = 12 teams (Three groups)

Central Asia Zone : 3 direct/1 from play-offs = 4 teams (One group)

East Asia Zone : 3 direct/1 from play-offs = 4 teams (One group)

South Asia Zone : 3 direct/1 from play-offs = 4 teams (One group)

As you can see all South Asian teams comes under one group. That means, Bengaluru FC (should they drop-down to AFC Cup without reaching the group stages of AFC Champions League), will be joined by Maziya from Maldives and Abhani Limited of Bangladesh. The fourth spot in the group will be taken by the winners of the play-off round in South Asia.

This is how the play off round for the south Asia looks like :AFC Cup, 2017, AFC, South Asia, Mohun Bagan, Thimpu FC, Bhutan, Football, Asia, Colombo FC, Sri Lanka,

Federation Cup winners Mohun Bagan will have to play two matches against South Asian teams to even reach the group stage of the competition (No MA points are accrued for prelims and Play-off matches). Now, compare this with the AFC Cup format of 2016, where both teams from India – Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC were placed in two different groups (Group G & H)and had a chance to go further in the competition. Whereas in 2017 they will be fighting with each other in the same group, if Bagan qualify for the group stages. And only one team, that is either Bengaluru FC or Mohun Bagan will be progressing to the further stages of the competition.

Now take a look at the West Asian Zone, they have 3 groups in the zone and the teams are dispersed in these groups. For example, Air Force Club of Iraq who were the 2016 AFC Cup champions after defeating  Bengaluru FC is placed in Group B of West Zone and Al Zawraa another club from Iraq is placed in Group A, offering the two teams a chance to progress further in the tournament. ASEAN zone is another one with an unfair advantage over others. ASEAN zone has 3 groups and teams from these countries are dispersed among these groups. AFC cup 2016 semi finalists Johor Darul Ta’zim is in Group F of the competition, whereas another Malaysian team Felda United is placed in Group G. The only thing good coming out of this format revamp is that there will be representation from more countries in AFC Cup and probably lesser miles traveled by teams to play the away matches.

The MA ranking conundrum

With the new  format in place, the MA rankings of India could take hit too. Lets us take a look.

if 2 or more teams participate from the same MA, then their points get averaged out and if one team is good but others are not good, then the points gained by MA is not good (e.g. For Malaysia, last year where JDT reached semifinal, but other team crashed out of group stage taking their points gained only to 7.167), this is a shortcoming in AFC’s points calculation mechanism. And it gives advantage to the MA from where only one team is participating and if the participating team performs well in the competition, then MA points gained will be very good. Where as for MAs with more teams, this method proves to be disadvantageous. Because, if MAs with one or more teams participating, then all the teams must perform very well to gain more points, like the case with India last year).

But this year’s format of AFC Cup has aggravated the situation for top MAs in south, central and East zone (with India and Tajikistan being the biggest losers), as one team from one MA will not advance out of group stage, hence points gained will be low for an MA with 2 teams. In addition, AFC cup points only account for 1/3rd that of ACL games. This means India is the biggest loser in this case (If BFC doesn’t go to the group stage of ACL and perform well there) there will be no chance for India to break in to the Top 6 MAs in the region before 2017 November whose rankings will be counted for slot allocations of 2019 and 2020. So, AFC is trying to preserve status quo in ACL slot allocations and West and ASEAN zone in AFC cup and prevent new MAs being represented in ACL. Although not apparent unless you read between the lines and dig deeper on the new format. As per the new format, as a country it is advantageous for us only if one club makes it to the group stage of the tournament. If two of them make it to the group stage, it would be detrimental for our MA rankings. A real catch-22 situation for us!

Also noticeable is that ASEAN and West Asian teams that qualify for further stages play 4 and 2 more games respectively than the rest, if the points accrued in these extra matches also count (zonal Semifinals and zonal finals) then all the other zones are at a serious disadvantage.

This is where it gets utterly tricky for India, if Bengaluru FC doesn’t qualify for ACL and at least doesn’t get till Quarterfinals (pray to god for some miracle!!), then the next window of opportunity for substantial increase in MA rankings and better slot allocation comes only in 2020 whose ranking will probably be counted for 2021 allocations and there is a plan to count only club performance for that, at the moment we can’t say for sure if that it will be beneficial to India as there are countries where National team is below par, but clubs do extremely well.

Status Quoist AFC?

Its looks like AFC isn’t an exception in trying to maintain status quo, there are many world sporting bodies like UEFA (who are trying to change UCL structure to give unusual preference to top MAs), ICC (The Big three control the revenue and administration preventing smaller cricketing nations a greater share of revenue and associate nations with remote chance of playing test matches)etc, and Indian football in tatters due to ongoing restructuring and shutting shops of old clubs also doesn’t help. And AFC being status quoist that it is, Clubs can’t expect too much help from them in the current crisis.

On the whole, the revamped format of the AFC Cup along with the current method of MA ranking calculation, it is quite obvious that India has got a raw deal with the recent format revamp of the AFC Cup. Despite all the challenges our clubs have been facing on the domestic front, performances on the continental level in the AFC Cup has been quite decent from our clubs. This revamp of the competition format is going to cripple our progress in terms of MA rankings and our quest for a direct slot in the AFC champions League. Although Some may say It is too soon to dream about direct slot in ACL, we never know until we are tested rigorously and only then do we have a chance to Improve ourselves.

AFC Cup 2016 Final – Know thy opponent : Through the words of an Iraqi Football expert

Air Force Club, JSW, Bengaluru FC, Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, AFC Cup, 2016, Doha, Qatar, Sunil Chhetri, Hammadi, Star Sports, Football, Indian Football, Soccer, IraqThe big day is here. It is a momentous occasion for Indian Football as Bengaluru FC takes on Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya or the Air Force Club of Iraq as they are known in the AFC Cup 2016 final. Since there was a dearth of information on today’s opponent, I decided to get in touch with an Iraqi football expert to know more about Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya. I asked a few questions to football writer Hassanin Mubarak and here are his replies. Read on!

What’s is Air Force Club’s style of play?

Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya are an attacking side playing two forward up-front, with Hamadi Ahmed and the returning Amjad Radhi, one of the most prolific strikers in the Iraqi league in current times who is attempting to regain his old form. The little and large combination of Hamadi and Amjad were once the best two front-pairing in Iraq until Amjad left for Arbil in 2010. The striker wearing the No.40 for Al-Jawiya was top scorer in this tournament in 2012 with 9 goals. Amjad has spent the last couple of seasons in Saudi Arabia and Egypt without much success and while he was Al-Jawiya’s main forward during his last spell at the club, Hamadi has now taken on that mantle with Amjad being the second striker. Basim Qasim also has Emad Muhsin if needed. Al-Jawiya’s goals will depend a lot on the ability of the wide-men to create in the final third, the hopes of victory will rest heavily on the shoulders of Humam Tariq and 15-goal hit man Hamadi Ahmed.

Their Strong points and weakness according to you?

Al-Jawiya relies a great deal on the presence of Hamadi Ahmed, their main goalscorer and attacking threat. The new coach Basim Qasim appointed in the summer has not changed either the style or team formation since taking charge, however, they have proved to be resilient under the former Police Lieutenant and are unbeaten in the first six games under him. Basim Qasim will, however, have to reshuffle the ranks with the absence of center back Samal Saeed and winger Bashar Resan, two key players who will be suspended for the final. Bashar will be a significant loss, with the team balance on the wings with Humam Tariq on the opposite flank interrupted, with both players having the talent to switch flanks throughout matches. While Basim Qasim has a ready-made replacement for Samal Saeed, in Saad Natiq, however the coach does not have that luxury with a replacement for Bashar. One solution would be to start Hulgard Mulla Mohammed, the brother of the retired wing wizard Hawar. He is a different proposition for defenders compared to the pacy and tricky Bashar Resan. Hulgard does not possess the speed he once had but the versatile two-footed attacking midfielder can play on the wings or in central midfield. But the absence of Bashar will be a substantial miss for Al-Jawiya.

Are they going to play the same way in the final or are you expecting a cagey game from them? Who are all the players to watch out?

I expect Al-Jawiya will play their usual game in Doha and go out and score goals. It could be a cagey and cautious final if the game remains goalless. The key players will be Humam Tariq out on the wings and Hamadi Ahmed, they could be the winning formula for Al-Jawiya.

Are you expecting to see a lot of fans in Doha supporting the Air Force club?

There won’t be many Iraqi fans traveling and a majority of the supporting contingent will be expatriates living in the tiny Gulf state.

What’s the talk among the Iraqi football fans about Bengaluru FC?

Little is known about Bengaluru FC among both the Iraqi fans and the Al-Jawiya players but with both teams in a final, the opposition will be respected. 23 years ago Al-Zawraa, one of the most successful clubs in Iraqi football history were humiliated 6-2 by the East Bengal Club so Iraqis will be wary of this very fact.

Follow Hassanin Mubarak on Twitter here.

You can read his extensive preview of Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya here.

Muzaffarnagar to Doha – Nishu Kumar’s Incredible Journey

Nishu Kumar, Bengaluru FC, Football, India, AFC Cup, 2016, Soccer, Uttar Pradesh, Defender, left back, Doha, Muzaffarnagar, Indian Football Let’s start off with a question – How many top flight footballers hailing from Uttar Pradesh do you know? Just like me, you can take the help of Google to find the answer. Apart from the sheer joy of supporting a youngster in fulfilling his dreams of becoming a great footballer, Nishu Kumar’s  place of  origin played a great role in me doing a short feature on him.

The Hindi heartland is the region from where we don’t see enough talent popping up in our football scene and Nishu Kumar maybe the sign of great things to come and of untapped potential from the state.

Nishu, Bengaluru FC’s left back started his footballing journey from a small ground across his home in Muzzafarnagar. He played with his friends on the dusty ground. By eighth standard he had made up his mind on staying in a hostel to pursue his studies and had set a target to be achieved – to join Lucknow Sports College. So, when Lucknow Sports College came calling for football trials, Nishu didn’t have to think twice and got selected after the trials. This is when he spotted a newspaper ad about trials at the Chandigarh Football Academy. He had already made up his mind on living in a hostel to continue his studies, so although he did not know much about Chandigarh or the football academy, Nishu set out on a journey that changed his life.

In 2009, Nishu joined CFA, and under the guidance of ex-Indian internationals Harjinder Singh and Tejinder Singh, Nishu honed his skills to perfection. “I started off as a striker in football in my childhood, just like any other youngster. It is in CFA, that I started playing as a defender”, Nishu says with a grin. He was played as a central defender and excelled his position as he appeared in various tournaments for CFA and played the National school games and various age group tournaments for Chandigarh.

After almost four years in CFA, he appeared for Chandigarh in the Sub-junior National Championship for Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy. Even though Chandigarh lost the final to Assam, Nishu’s consistent display for the team was noted by AIFF scouts who were present during the tournament.

In 2013, Nishu left CFA to join the AIFF Regional Academy in Mumbai, and was subsequently drafted in to the AIFF Elite Academy in Goa. Former Indian International Sabir Pasha was the coach in the academy at that time and he slightly adjusted Nishu’s position on the field. Sabir Pasha recommended that he shift to left back and from then on he has been playing in that position with great success.

According to Nishu, “Playing as wing back as opposed to a central defender is much more interesting as it not only involves all facets of defending, but also provides an opportunity to test my attacking skills. Even though it involves a lot of running up and down the pitch, this is a position that I enjoy playing in.”

I have met Nishu a couple of times before I sat down with him for this interview. During our earlier meetings, he literally shied off from talking. Hence, I was curious to know, how come a shy person like Nishu changes to a combative footballer when he takes to the field.  He quipped, “Yes I am a bit shy off the field, but football is an high intensity sport and we have to be utmost serious while playing the game professionally, hence I am always charged up before match to give my maximum best.” After prodding a bit more, he says “Yes, probably when I am on the pitch playing football, I turn to be a different personality,” he says innocently.

Playing football and hoping to cut a professional career in the sport while hailing from a place like Uttar Pradesh where the sport is not very popular would have been quite a dream to accomplish. When asked if he ever imagined playing with stalwarts of Indian football like Sunil Chhetri, Nishu says, “While I was at CFA, I never imagined I would be playing at this level. But after I moved to Mumbai at the AIFF regional academy, I was more confident on where the game could take me.” While at the Elite academy, the AIFF U-19 team played couple of friendlies with Bengaluru FC, as part of their preparation for the Asian Champions Trophy tournament. He recalls how the whole team was so charged up to play against BFC as the team was already making waves in Indian Football and they were the team to beat according to the youngsters in the India U19 team. “We were so elated after the first friendly that I could not even sleep that night as we played against top players like Sunil Chhetri, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Rino Anto, John Johnson and others at BFC. But I never expected to get selected here. Later when I got to know that I got selected by BFC, I was so extremely excited.”

Nishu Kumar, Bengaluru FC, Football, India, AFC Cup, 2016, Soccer, Uttar Pradesh, Defender, left back, Doha, Muzaffarnagar, Indian Football Nishu, who is a Chelsea fan idolises John Terry. He has settled in quite well at Bengaluru FC after being signed on by the club in 2015. He has since appeared for some matches in the AFC Cup and I-league for the club. He says the seniors at the club always help him on and off the ground and playing along players like John Johnson is in itself an inspiration to improve and do well on the pitch.

Nishu Kumar, Bengaluru FC, Football, India, AFC Cup, 2016, Soccer, Uttar Pradesh, Defender, left back, Doha, Muzaffarnagar, Indian Football Nishu was signed on by the club when Ashley Westwood was the coach and now they have a  new coach in Albert Roca. When asked about the difference between two coaches, Nishu said, “there is not much of a difference, but yes, both of them have a different approach to the game. Roca insists on playing with the ball and having more possession, but Ashley was about high intensity and used to totally charges us up while preparing for a match.”

It is obvious that Nishu has a long way to go in his career, so when asked about this he said, “This is only a prelude, I know I can do even better and I am trying hard to improve and get better.” He is hoping to make the maximum out of the chances that have come his way this season, and is keen to impress the coach and the fans alike. Just as any other Indian footballer, he dreams of playing for the senior Indian national team someday! Nishu attributes his success to the coaches who have helped him develop and is quick to credit all who have helped him over the years to reach where he is now.

When I was about to wind up the interview, I thought of asking him one last question. “Did anyone from UP football association ever talk to you?” NO, was the answer. This reply was predictable and is a glimpse into what exactly is ailing our football system. But despite these challenges, there are talents like Nishu Kumar who, if provided with the right guidance and platform can excel in the top level. I wished him the best for the finals of the AFC Cup in Doha and we bid good bye!

Bengaluru FC, The history Makers

Bengaluru FC, CK Vineeth, Football, Bengaluru, Bangalore, Bengaluru FC, Indian Football, AFC Cup, Johor Darul Taksim, Malaysia

Pic Credit : JSW Media

Fans were cheering and dressed in blue as the teams walked into the stadium. Albert Roca’s men dressed in blue (home jersey) and the Malaysian side were in their red shirts.A goalless draw would take the home team to the finals. The Malaysian side have never lost to the Indian side in their 4 meetings against them , BFC managed to walk home with a draw in their last meeting.
Peeeep!!! The match started with Bengaluru driving forward , the home advantage has given the blue’s much needed confidence. Blues dominated  the field as Rino Anto troubled the JDT defense with his quality crosses . Both teams played good football , it was a delight to watch both the sides attacking each others goal .Against the run of play the visitors pierced Bengaluru’s net in the 11th minute through their captain,  Safiq Rahim as he scored from the close range.

The goal certainly  made the home team restless as they looked dangerous at the opponent half . They had chances to score the equaliser , but the home team was more interested in wasting the chances rather than scoring from it. On the other hand Roca’s men in  looked dangerous on the break ,but their efforts lacked quality to test the keeper. Bengaluru was desperate to make the score level before the break and their moment came in the 40th minute as the captain Sunil Chhetri headed home the equaliser from Eugenson Lyngdoh’s corner. There were some odd efforts on either ends but the efforts were not enough to break the deadlock. As referee pointed to the half time scores were equal.

The second half began with the same intensity but this time the away team were dominating the field with their possession and their team play , as they were closing down too quickly on BFC players.JDT  made the first substitution of the match and were  bossing the midfield areas .Meanwhile home team looked  dangerous on break and they got in front in the 66th minute . The captain stepped up again , Chhetri scored a 30 yard stunner from outside the box with his right foot . Few minutes later Bengaluru side extended their lead through Juan Antonio as he headed home the 3rd goal from a typical Eugenson Lyngdoh’s freekick. JDT put their bodies forward to make a come back but the home teams defense stood as rock. All the attacks by the away team was knocked off by the Bangaluru defense.Referee signaled the end of the match after a tough 90 minutes and the stadium erupted.

A Historic achievement , Bengaluru FC has made it to the finals of AFC cup, Proud moment for Indian football .The Iraqi Air force Club awaits them in the finals.Surely the newbie of Indian football made us proud.

Match Report by Jithin Baby. Follow his blog here : https://jithinbabymulackampilly.wordpress.com

Ayeyawady’s Match-fixing Saga : The Breaking News that I Couldn’t Break!

Perks and dilemma of being an Indian football influencer.

Ayeyawady, Football, Myanmar, League, AFC Cup, Match Fixing, BettingThe latest news from Myanmar is that Ayeyawady United  is under the scanner from authorities over match fixing. A report that has appeared in Myanmar Times have revealed that a club official, along with some players fixed a few of their matches in Myanmar league, and also an AFC cup match. We are not yet sure of which AFC cup match of Ayeyawady was fixed, it will only be revealed after investigations are completed by the Myanmar league and the club itself. In AFC Cup, Ayeyawady was in a group comprising of Bengaluru FC, Johor from Malaysia and Lao Toyota FC from Laos.

It is being reported that an anonymous complaint has been filed with the Myanmar league authorities, involving officials and players of club. Ayeyawady had contrasting fortunes in the AFC Cup group stage as they got thorough drubbings at the hands of Johor (8-1) and Bengaluru FC (5-3) in their away matches. The home leg matches were also defeats, but the margin was less as they went down 0-1 to Bengaluru FC and 1-2 to Johor. They also managed two wins against the Laos side Lao Toyota FC.

On April 13th, when Bengaluru FC played Ayeyawady at home, and defeated them 5-3, I was quite elated. But suddenly, my sense of elation turned into a sense of concern, as an unknown twitter handle claimed that the match was probably fixed. It was a  commendable performance from BFC and all of a sudden when I got to hear this, it made me a bit upset. I started digging deeper to get more information on this.

Ayeyawady, Football, Myanmar, League, AFC Cup, Match Fixing, Betting

In no time, I followed the handle that broke this news and discussed why he thought that the match was fixed. This person, who introduced himself as a professional gambler from UK, explained why he thought the BFC vs Ayeyawady match was probably fixed and this is why he thought so.

Basically the odds in play were not moving naturally all game. Everything was almost over in the match and Bengaluru was getting hit constantly. Even with 2 minutes to go, the odds were so so short. The odds should be going the other way when the game is nearly over etc. Nearly every round of AFC cup games, a team will be fixing.

He went on to claim that it is pretty common for teams from Myanmar and Laos to indulge in match fixing.

Usually a Myanmar side or Laos side. Even happening in world cup qualifying games in Asia too. FIFA/AFC seem to take a blind eye towards it. I’m a professional gambler so it’s very easy for me to read the odds in Asian betting markets to see a game that looks dodgy.

…And was quick to point out that so far he has not seen an Indian team involving in fixing and gave a clean chit to our football.

For Bengaluru the prices were so much lower than what they should be. The defending for the goals back it up too. But yeah anyway the good news is that i’ve not seen an indian team fix this year so i’m pretty certain your football is clean.

We still don’t know if the match involving Bengaluru FC was fixed or not. But it was very surprising for me to see a report pop up this week – JDT’s AFC Cup opponent Ayeyawady face match-fixing investigation. Betting is not a silly issue, that I could go public without some credible evidence. So I kept it to myself, and later shared my concerns with some close friends who actively track Indian Football. They did not express any surprise either after hearing the news.

Betting is a dicey issue and it probably happens a lot in Asian football. Many reports claim that there are many betting cartels active in Asia. The recent inclusion of Justice Mudgal in FIFA’s governance committee is definitely a step by FIFA to utilize his expertise in understanding these networks that operate in Asia, especially South Asia. Justice Mudgal was appointed by the Indian Supreme Court as part of a three-member committee that led the inquiry in the IPL betting and spot fixing case.

Afterthought: There are no considerable rewards for running an Indian Football news Twitter handle, except having some followers among fans, players, officials and journalists, who are connected with and are passionate about the sport. But the real joy is when you get trinkets of information such as this alert on match fixing, which later gets substantiated. Call it a dilemma or a joy – these are definitely perks of being an Indian Football Influencer.

Robin Singh ruled out for at least 6 months!

Robin Singh, Football, SAFF Suzuki Cup, Sri Lanka, Bengaluru FC, I-league, AFC CupRobin Singh suffered knee injury while playing the group stage match against Sri Lanka in SAFF cup. He suffered the injury while scoring his second goal against Lanka and was seen writhing in pain. Afterwards, he was immediately taken to the hospital.

National team coach had confirmed the next day that injury was not serious and Robin will be available for selection for the match against Nepal. However he did not make it to the squad versus Nepal and later news emerged that Robin was ruled from the rest of the SAFF cup.

He flew to Bangalore later for further assessment of his injury. Bengaluru FC owner Parth Jindal has taken to twitter to confirm that Robin will be ruled for an extended period.

Looks like Robin will be out for at least 6 months and this going to be a big blow for Bengaluru FC. BFC will miss his service for I-league and AFC Cup.

 

East Bengal complain to AFC against Kuwait SC

Kf_east_bengal_logoEast Bengal has registered a formal complaint to AFC against Kuwait SC over the shabby treatment meted out to the Indian team so far.

First there was the visa issue where 3 players and 4 officials did not receive visas on time. This left captain Mehtab Hossain, defender Arnan Mondal and Gurwinder Singh in lurch and they could only travel to Kuwait late last night.

East Bengal is also unhappy about the accommodation as they accused not enough drinking water was available in the players’ rooms. East Bengal secretary Kalyan Majumdar accused that Kuwait SC is playing games to unsettle East Bengal.

Read more : Fuming East Bengal complain to AFC against Kuwait SC

Joaquim Abranches to become the only Indian player to have played two AFC Cup Semi finals

Image Courtesy : http://i-league.org

Image Courtesy : http://i-league.org

Joaquim Abranches will earn the distinction of being the only Indian player to have played two AFC Cup Semi finals,  as East Bengal appears in this year’s AFC Cup semi final.

Abrnaches appeared in the semi final of AFC Cup earlier with Dempo in 2008.

Here is a nice article on how Armando Colaco who discovered Joaquim Abrnaches is excited about his protege : Colaco smiles in Abranches’ moment of glory