Dubai: The AFC Executive Committee has announced fresh updates to the 2020 competitions calendar after the UAE’s Al Wahda became a last-minute COVID-19 casualty from the West Zone qualifying rounds of the AFC Champions League on Thursday.
“Al Wahda have informed the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) that they are unable to travel to Qatar to compete in the AFC Champions League (West), where they currently occupy second place in Group A, after several members of the club tested positive for COVID-19,” read a statement from the Asian Football Confederation.
“The AFC has written to the United Arab Emirates Football Association (UAE FA) to inform them that the request by the UAE FA and the club for a postponement of the Group matches cannot be accommodated because of the advanced preparations in which many teams have already travelled to Qatar for the competition.”
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The AFC had decided to organise two separate competitions in centralised locations to avert the effects of the ongoing pandemic. Accordingly, Doha and Kuala Lumpur were chosen to host the remainder of the group matches for the West and East regions, respectively.
With Al Wahda unable to make the trip to Doha, the number of teams from the UAE now slips down to three — Al Ain, Sharjah and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai — in Group D, C and B, respectively.
In keeping with the rules and regulations of the competition, Al Wahda will have to forfeit their matches and “the matter will now be referred to the relevant AFC Committees for a decision in accordance with the applicable regulations”.
The UAE football season that was scheduled for a kick-off last Thursday (September 3) with the opening round matches of the Arabian Gulf Cup, had been postponed just 24 hours before kick-off, for at least one month.
In the AFC Champions League action, Al Wahda were seen to be among the best teams in Group A as they were tied for the top spot with Al Ahli of Saudi Arabia with an identical four points. And while Shabab Al Ahli and Al Ain are yet to register their first points in Group B and D respectively, league champions Sharjah have a lone point and yet sit at the bottom of Group C chasing Saudi Arabia’s Al Taawoun (6 points), Qatari side Al Duhail (3 points) and Iran’s Persepolis (1).
Meanwhile, the AFC Champions League East Zone matches, that had been planned to restart in mid-October, have now been rescheduled to be played between November 15 and December 13, the AFC related after its Executive Committee meeting.
The final of the 2020 AFC Champions League that will be played in the West Zone on December 19 will be a single match, rather than in the traditional home and away format.