“For the growth of Indian football, a mechanism must be put in place where Indian clubs are placed in the East group. Indian clubs should be competing with clubs from Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and, at times, even Thailand which has some strong clubs,” Karim had added.
Karim surely has a point here! The teams in West Asia are moving faster on the track of professionalization than Indian clubs, but a few years ago Indian clubs were competitive in the West Zone of the AFC Cup. Now except for a win here or there, this looks very unlikely.
But there is also a counter example in East Bengal Club last season who finished bottom of their AFC Cup group which included Chonburi FC (Thailand), Persipura Jayapura (Indonesia) and South China FC (Hongkong). The red-and-gold did draw all their home matches, but lost all their away games.
I also feel Indian clubs would gain in being in the East Zone of the AFC Cup, but it is also an issue of scheduling than the AFC club competitions – AFC Champions League, AFC Cup – are played across a calendar year; while most leagues season run from August/September to May. With the AFC Cup group stage mainly played in March, April and May; it is towards the end of the Indian season with clubs fighting for the title and positions while players are negotiating new contracts.
Published with permission from Arunava about Football.