By Paul Nicholson
September 8 – The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has launched a new national team competition, the AFC Solidarity Cup, today in Kuala Lumpur. The first edition of the planned nine-team competition will be played this year in Malaysia, November 2-15.
The AFC Solidarity Cup is designed to increase international competition for AFC member nations who need the matches and experience to develop competitively.
The inaugural competition will feature the six teams eliminated from the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia qualifying rounds and the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 1 – Brunei DS, Macau, Mongolia, Nepal,Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
They will be joined by the losing teams from the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Qualifiers Play-off II: Maldives vs Laos; Bangladesh vs Bhutan, Timor-Leste vs Chinese Taipei.
Bhutan have already declined an invitation to participate so if they end up being the losing team then the tournament will be reduced to eight teams.
AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said: “The AFC Solidarity Cup is an exciting initiative to develop national team football in Asia. The AFC is excited about this new tournament – the AFC Solidarity Cup – as we look to deliver the objective of our Vision and Mission which is to make Asian teams stronger on the global stage.”
As well as increasing opportunities to play at the international level, simultaneously the AFC will run targeted education and training for officials including coaching, referees and technical analysis. “There will also be event management training offered to MAs who hold aspirations to host international tournaments in the future,” said an AFC press release.
The tournament itself will be organised into two groups. Nepal, Pakistan and Brunei have been drawn in Group A and will be joined by Timor-Leste or Chinese Taipei, and Bangladesh in they lose to Bhutan.
Group B is made up of Sri Lanka, Macau and Mongolia, and either Maldives or Laos.
Pakistan and Brunei kick off the tournament on November 2 with the two group winners playing off in the final on November 15.
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