|KUALA LUMPUR: Asian Football Confederation officials will meet FIFA this week to discuss the status of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers scheduled for both this month and June.Health concerns and ever extending travel restrictions around the spreading of coronavirus has led to the AFC undertaking preliminary discussions with some East Zone football associations in Kuala Lumpur.
A growing number of national teams are unable either to stage matches or to travel to venues, therefore, the AFC will meet FIFA and then the West Zone nations later this week to review alternative options.
The World Cup also serves as a qualifying event for the Asian Cup in China in 2023.
Asian East Zone football federations with competing teams in the AFC Champions League have agreed to extend the dates of the knock-out rounds to allow for more time to complete the disrupted group stage fixtures.
This follows disruption caused by both security issues and then the coronavirus restrictions.
Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, it was agreed that matches scheduled for March and April which cannot be played, will be moved to May 19-20 – Match Day (MD3), May 26-27 (MD4), June 16-17 (MD5) and June 23-24 (MD6).
Where matches have been agreed between the two clubs, then the matches will go ahead as planned, if agreed by other stakeholders. A full list of fixtures will be confirmed between the MAs and the Clubs by March 16, 2020.
If the current unprecedented situation continues then matches involving teams, other than clubs from Japan, can be played in July and any outstanding matches which have not been staged from Match Day 1 and 2 need to be concluded before August 2020.
That means that the round of 16 matches will be played on August 11/12 and the second leg on August 25/26, 2020. The ACL quarter-finals will be played on September 15/16 with the return legs on September 29/30, 2020.
The semi-finals will then take place on October 20/21 and the return leg on October 27/28, 2020 and the final dates would remain as November 22 (East) and 28 (West), 2020.
Dato’ Windsor John, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) General Secretary, thanked the representatives for their cooperation and said: “These are challenging, and unprecedented times and we are grateful that everyone has come together to try and find a solution which works for everyone.
“As the AFC President, Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has already stated, the AFC will not put anyone at risk during these times of heightened health concerns and so we have taken some sensible decisions to postpone both matches and events.
“The AFC hopes that there is a quick and safe end to this current situation and that we can return to normality where football can play a role in bringing some joy and entertainment to people’s lives. Our support and sympathies are extended to communities affected.”
An emergency meeting will be held with the West Zone representatives at the weekend.