2017 AFC Cup draw opens gateway for small clubs to think big

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June 17 – The draw for the qualifying tournament for the group stages of the 2017 AFC Cup has been held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, though Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Crown was not in the draw as they await a ruling on their suspension by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).

The AFC Cup is the Asian Football Confederation’s second regional club competition, the AFC Champions League is the senior club championship.

Nine teams were drawn into three groups for the next stage of 2017 AFC Cup qualifying with Dordoi (Kyrgyzstan), FC Tertons (Bhutan) and Erchim (Mongolia) being chosen as the group hosts.

Dordoi will host Casa Benfica (Macau) and Rovers FC (Guam); Erchim will host Nagaworld FC (Cambodia) and Three Star Club (Nepal), while FC Tertons will entertain Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra Ltd (Bangladesh) and Tatung FC (Chinese Taipei).

The three group winners will qualify for the next round of the competition to be played in 2017. The group qualifying matches will be played this year from 19-25 August 2016.

Phnom Penh Crown had their invitation to join the Qualifying Round of the 2017 AFC Cup withdrawn by the AFC following a match-fixing scandal that saw four of its officials punished with suspensions earlier this year by the disciplinary committee of the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC).

The AFC, which has significantly hardened its zero tolerance policy on match-fixing, invoked its statutes that stipulate refusal of entry into any AFC competition to any club that is found guilty of match fixing. The suspension is for one year.

However, the Cambodian club, who had reported the incident to their federation themselves, lodged an appeal with CAS, saying: “We have done everything we possibly can to support the fight against corruption, cheating and match-manipulation.”

The defending Metfone C-League champions were replaced in the draw by Nagaworld FC but if CAS rule in their favour then they will presumably swap back into the competition.

The 2016 AFC Cup competition has reached quarter final stage with champions Johor Darul Ta’zim from Malaysia being drawn to face Hong Kong’s South China.

Quarter and semi-finals of the 2016 AFC Cup will be played in September with the final to be played November 5.

The full draw for the quarter finals is;

Quarter-final 1 West: Air Force Club (Iraq) v Al Jaish (Syria)
Quarter-final 2 West: Al Ahed (Lebanon) v Al Muharraq (Bahrain)
Quarter-final 3 East: South China (Hong Kong) v Johor Darul Ta’zim (Malaysia)
Quarter-final 4 East: JSW Bengaluru (India) v Tampines Rovers (Singapore)

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