East Bengal’s hopes of playing in the AFC Cup for the fifth straight edition look slim as it has been confirmed that the winners of this season’s Federation Cup will not get a slot in Asia’s Europa League. Each member association of AFC is required to finalise their representatives by December 31 2013 and since this season’s Federation Cup won’t take place until January 2014, the winners won’t get a slot in the AFC Cup.
The AIFF has decided that the champions (Churchill Brothers) and runners-up (Pune FC) of last season’s I-League will be representing India in Asian club competitions this time. Since Pune FC have also acquired the national and AFC club license, the Red Lizards are also eligible to play in the Asian Champions League qualifying playoff if India are allotted a slot there.
“We have decided not to include the Federation Cup winners this time. The I-League champions and runners-up will be playing in the AFC Cup. But yes, if we get a slot there (Asian Champions League qualifying playoff), Pune FC could be playing in it. It will be decided at the executive committee meeting of the AFC in November,” I-League CEO Sunando Dhar told Sportskeeda on Monday.
Thus 2013 AFC Cup semi-finalists East Bengal are set to miss out as they finished third in the I-League last season. Besides the 2013 edition, Churchill Brothers’ only other previous appearance in the AFC Cup came in 2010 when they reached the round of 16 while Pune FC will be making their debut in Asia.
The last time an Indian club played an Asian Champions League qualifying playoff was in 2011 when Dempo were beaten 2-0 by the eventual winners of that season, Qatar’s Al Sadd.
The AFC has asked each member association to send representatives of the top four clubs of their domestic league for a workshop in Malaysia on December 10 and 11. So club officials of Churchill Brothers, Pune FC, East Bengal and United SC will be attending the two-day event.
A final decision on the slots for each country will be taken at AFC’s executive committee meeting on November 26 and East Bengal are hoping that India gets an additional berth. The only other way they can get into the AFC Cup is if Churchill Brothers or Pune FC withdraw just like Dempo last year.
The three teams besides the 13 I-League clubs for the 16-team Federation Cup was also confirmed by the AIFF on Monday. As revealed by Sportskeeda last month, those three clubs are United Sikkim and the third and fourth placed teams of last season’s second division – Bhawanipore of Kolkata and Langsning from Shillong.
Langsning and Bhawanipore replace the disbanded Pailan Arrows and Mumbai Tigers, who withdrew from the I-League.
Federation Cup Draw & Fixtures (To be held in Kerala)