The general managers of United City and Kaya-Iloilo are “very disappointed” that the Asian Football Confederation Cup has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, depriving both sides of the chance to advance further in the continent’s club competition.
Both local clubs were among those still in contention in the ASEAN Zone when play was scrapped by the Asian football body, citing the imposing logistical challenges for completing the remaining matches of the tournament, last Sept. 10.
United City, which took over the slot of Ceres-Negros FC as part of the club’s buyout, paced 4-team Group G with 7 points on 2 wins and a draw while Kaya-Iloilo was running second in Group H with 5 points after posting a win and 2 draws.
The group winners would have advanced to the knockout stage.
Three years ago, the Busmen bagged the first AFC ASEAN Zone championship after beating Singapore’s Home United 2-0 at the Panaad pitch in Bacolod, on Aug. 9, 2017 for a 3-2 aggregate victory.
United City and Kaya-Iloilo still had three matches remaining in their respective groups of the home-and-away, double-round series, which was supposed to be held separately in Vietnam beginning Sept. 23 until the Vietnamese withdrew their hosting due to the rise of the virus infections there.
“The staging of the remaining matches of the AFC Cup was no longer a sporting issue but a health issue, a pandemic issue that is beyond our control,” said Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta Jr., who is also on the AFC Executive Committee.
Araneta added that even under the centralized, or “bubble,” set-up both local clubs would have incurred extra expenses, “because they need to undergo an extra 14-day quarantine before they can compete at the competition venue abroad due to the high COVID-19 cases we have here.“
“Once they return home they will also require another additional 14 days of quarantine before being released once again,” he added.
Araneta said the AFC was trying to salvage the situation so the tournament could be resumed in December because “we (the AFC) will have new commercial partners next year. But if it is not feasible then it has to be cancelled.”
“We are disappointed with the cancellation of the AFC, but with that behind us we are more focused towards winning the league championship,” said United City GM Ace Bright, whose team finally began practicing last week at the PFF national training center in Carmona town, Cavite.
“Obviously everyone’s disappointed,” added Kaya-Iloilo GM Paul Tolentino. “It was a big carrot dangling there, especially motivation-wise. It being taken away was so disappointing.
“This seems to be the theme of this whole year -- expect the unexpected and not expect too much when things don’t go as planned.”
Tolentino said the team, which got the green light to train at the Blue Pitch in Makati last week, would also focus on its preparations for the league opening.