Unravelling the AFC Cup - A guide to the continental club competition in Asia

With East Bengal and Churchill Brothers representing India in the AFC Cup 2013, Goal.com looks at the history of the competition as well as how Indian clubs have fared...

The AFC Cup, since its inception in 2004, has been the second tier continental competition for clubs in Asia by the Asian Football Federation (AFC). Countries which are classified as ‘Mature’ by the AFC are eligible to play in the Champions League, while those in the ‘Emerging’ bracket are in the President’s Cup. The clubs that are from nations classifed as 'Developing' are afforded a chance to participate in the AFC Cup.

Following some reforms in the rules, the finalists of the AFC Cup have a new incentive by being allowed to participate in the qualifying rounds of the AFC Champions League.

The 2013 edition of the prestigious cup consists of 8 groups in the finals, each consisting of 4 teams, with 2 teams from India (as per the allocation of spots by AFC) being East Bengal and Churchill Brothers.

East Bengal made it to the tournament by virtue of winning the 2012 Federation Cup while following reigning I-League champions Dempo SC's decision to pull out, Churchill Brothers who finished third in the 2011-12 I-League were allowed to take their place. 

East Bengal will be leading India's charge in the AFC Cup with Churchill


With teams from Jordan and Kuwait being the most successful with two AFC Cup titles each , the competition often reduces teams’ chances of doing well in their domestic league. In fact Kuwait SC, who have won the AFC Cup a record two times, have never won the Kuwaiti League during the season in which they managed to get the better of all other Asian sides in the Cup.

Al-Faisaly FC, on the other hand managed to win two AFC Cups on the trot in 2005 and 2006, although the flipside being that they won the Jordan League Title in seasons other than those.

As far as the Indian sides go, both East Beangal and Churchill will need that stat to be proved wrong as their travels for this Cup are, most certainly going to be tiring enough to affect their I-League ambitions. It must be noted that in the last edition East Bengal won all of their fixtures in the I-League after their AFC Cup disappointment. Such experiences will only help them this time around.

Other teams that have participated in the tournament include Mohun Bagan, Mahindra United and Dempo out of which only Dempo and Mahindra United have been successful so to say. Mahindra United managed to reach the quarter final once in the 2007 edition while Mohun Bagan, on the other hand have been one of the worst Indian teams in this competition having been knocked out from the group stage itself in both 2007 and 2009 seasons.

Salgaocar too had a campaign worth forgetting when they finished bottom of their group.

Churchill, on the other hand have only appeared once in this competition, in which they finished 2nd behind eventual group winners Al-Kuwait. As far as East Bengal are concerned, they too have managed a quarter final appearance at their best attempt over 6 seasons.

But the best Indian side have most definitely been Dempo, who reached the semi-finals in the 2008 season but went on to lose the game.

As far as the best players are concerned the top scorer of the tournament till date has been Brazilian Rico , who has managed to bag in a massive 19 goals in the 2008 season.


Season Footballer Club No of goals scored
2008 Rico Al-Muharraq 19
2011  Ivan Boskovic Nasaf Qarshi 10
2005 Mo'ayyad Salim Al-Faisalay 9
2012  Raja Rafe Al-Shorta 9
2006  Mahmoud Shelbaieh Al-Wahdat 8
                                                    Top goal scorers in the AFC Cup

The AFC Cup, though gives squads a hard time and their inevitable ability to tire out the players from so many matches during the year, has its own credibility and winning it, for any team is always special.

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