Asian Football Confederation (AFC) completion committee has proposed to reformat their second tier club competition, AFC Cup, from 2018 by dividing the regions and a winner of west zone dominated by Middle East clubs advance to the final and a winner from other regions taking the second spot. Maldives is a regular representative in the competition with league and FA Cup champions taking the two allocated spots.
A total of six clubs have represented Maldives in the AFC Cup so far with New Radiant being the only club to have progressed beyond group stage. They have achieved an unexpected feat of reaching the semi finals in 2005 and expectedly topped their group in 2013 and advanced to the quarter finals after beating Malaysia’s Selangor in a one legged second round game played in Male’.
Looking at the past tournaments, it is evident that clubs from Middle East are far ahead but local clubs have given a good fight against sides from the ASEAN region.
AFC’s new proposal to reformat the tournament and allowing clubs from South Asia to compete each other in group stage gives Maldivian clubs a very likely chance of progressing from their group to the next round. Maldivian clubs are likely to placed alongside clubs from SAARC region and it is obvious that clubs from India will provide the biggest competition but with home and away games local clubs have every chance to win a spot in the next round.
With proper preparation there is fairly a good chance for local clubs to reaching an advanced stage in the competition and even appearing in the final is a possibility. Everything depends on proper preparation but the new format surely gives local clubs high hopes.