India to host AFC Champions League group involving FC Goa

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FC Goa are set to play their first-ever AFC Champions League campaign at home after the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), on Thursday, confirmed that India will host the Group E matches of the tournament later this year. 

FC Goa had earned to right to represent India at the AFC Champions League after they won the Indian Super League (ISL) League Winners Shield in the 2019-20 season. 

Due to the prevailing Covid situation across the continent, the AFC had decided to host each group at a centralised venue so as to minimise travel and risk to the players and staff. As such, bids were invited from all interested countries and the All India Football Federation (AIFF) had put forward their interest in hosting the Group E matches.

Factors like minimum travel and quarantine restrictions for away clubs, the convenience of flight connections and the medical situation in the host country were all considered before the group was awarded to India to host. The matches are set to be held in Goa, which has also recently hosted the entire season of the 2020-21 ISL. 

During the matches, mandatory Covid-19 test will be organised for all players and officials, the costs of which will be borne by the AFC. 

FC Goa are in a strong group that involves Iran's Persepolis and Qatar's Al Rayyan. The fourth team will be a winner of the West region play-offs. The matches are scheduled to be held in the second half of April and early May. 

In the West region, Groups A and D are set to be hosted in Saudi Arabia's Riyadh and while Jeddah will host Group B. Group C will be hosted by United Arab Emirates in Dubai. 

AFC have also postponed the East Zone matches to June/July. Groups F, G and J will be hosted in Thailand while venues for I and H will be revealed later. 

Dato’ Windsor John, the AFC General Secretary, said: “On behalf of the Asian football family, I would like to thank all our Member Associations for their interest in hosting our club competitions and commitment towards ensuring we continue to place the safety and wellbeing of our players, teams, and officials at the forefront of all our priorities."