KUALA LUMPUR: Asian Football Confederation presidentShaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has praised Al Ain FC after the United Arab Emirates side staged a 5-1 comeback victory over Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos to secure their second AFC Champions League™ title at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium.

With Al Ain trailing 2-1 after falling in the first leg in Yokohama two weeks ago, the United Arab Emirates’ most successful club rebounded in serendipitous fashion to capture their second Continental club crown, adding to the title they won in the inaugural 2002/03 AFC Champions League™ edition as the showpiece makes way for the AFC Champions League Elite™ later this year.

Shaikh Salman said: “The AFC Champions League™ 2023/24 reinforced its position as one of the best club competitions in world football as some of the most renowned global icons battled for supremacy and our praise must go to all our Participating Member Associations for their commitment in raising their standards each year.

“Al Ain deserve our plaudits for their consistency and determination throughout the season so on behalf of the AFC, I would like to express our sincere congratulations to everyone at the club on this remarkable achievement.”

The AFC President also commended Yokohama F Marinos, who were appearing in their first-ever Continental final since winning the now-defunct Asian Cup Winners’ Cup in 1992/93, adding that the riveting finale was the perfect swansong as the Continent looks to introduce the revamped three-tier club structure later this year.

“Yokohama F. Marinos’ resolve and drive must also be acknowledged, and I convey my compliments to both teams for what will be remembered as a night when the Asian club game celebrated the incredible journey forged together whilst looking ahead towards an exciting new future.

“The success we enjoy today is a tribute to all our valued stakeholders, from our participating teams to our commercial and media partners and our passionate fans, whose unwavering support over the past 21 years has led us to this breakthrough moment.

“From the bottom of my heart, I thank everyone for writing this incredible success story, and now we look forward to the same commitment to excellence as we write a new chapter filled with excitement for a better and brighter future of the Asian club game,” added the AFC President.

Al Ain’s victory on Saturday concludes Asia’s qualifying campaign for the revamped 32-team FIFA Club World Cup 2025, which will take place in the United States in June and July.

The United Arab Emirates side joins Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal SFC and Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds who qualified as winners of the AFC Champions League™ in 2021 and 2022, respectively, while Ulsan HD FC from Korea Republic have secured their place via the ranking pathway.

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