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The AFC Cup: The Story So Far


2004: Al Jaish (SYR)
2005: Al Faisaly (JOR)
2006: Al Faisaly (JOR)
2007: Shabab Al Ordon (JOR)
2008: Muharraq (BHR)
2009: Kuwait SC (KUW)
2010: Al Ittihad (SYR)
2011: FC Nasaf (UZB)
2012: Kuwait SC (KUW)
2013: Kuwait SC (KUW)
2014: Qadsia SC (KUW)
2015: Johor Darul Ta'zim (MAS)
2016: Air Force Club (IRQ)
2017: Air Force Club (IRQ)
2018: Air Force Club (IRQ)
2019: Al Ahed FC (LBN)
2004: Al Jaish (SYR)
2005: Al Faisaly (JOR)
2006: Al Faisaly (JOR)
2007: Shabab Al Ordon (JOR)
2008: Muharraq (BHR)
2009: Kuwait SC (KUW)
2010: Al Ittihad (SYR)
2011: FC Nasaf (UZB)
2012: Kuwait SC (KUW)
2013: Kuwait SC (KUW)
2014: Qadsia SC (KUW)
2015: Johor Darul Ta'zim (MAS)
2016: Air Force Club (IRQ)
2017: Air Force Club (IRQ)
2018: Air Force Club (IRQ)
2019: Al Ahed FC (LBN)
2004: Al Jaish (SYR)
2005: Al Faisaly (JOR)
2006: Al Faisaly (JOR)
2007: Shabab Al Ordon (JOR)
2008: Muharraq (BHR)
2009: Kuwait SC (KUW)
2010: Al Ittihad (SYR)
2011: FC Nasaf (UZB)
2012: Kuwait SC (KUW)
2013: Kuwait SC (KUW)
2014: Qadsia SC (KUW)
2015: Johor Darul Ta'zim (MAS)
2016: Air Force Club (IRQ)
2017: Air Force Club (IRQ)
2018: Air Force Club (IRQ)
2019: Al Ahed FC (LBN)

Kuala Lumpur: The AFC Cup returns on Friday with the launch of its 18th edition of the competition as the Central Zone gets underway in Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan respectively. 

Ahead of the 2021 AFC Cup kick-off, we look back at the tournament's history, reviewing every campaign and champion since 2004.

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2004
Champions: Al Jaish (Syria)
Runners-up: Al Wahda (Syria)

Eighteen teams from 11 nations, from Lebanon in the west to Hong Kong in the east, were placed into five groups with the table-toppers and three best-placed runners-up advancing to the quarter-finals.

In the inaugural final it was Syrian duo Al Jaish and Al Wahda who eventually progressed to the two-legged final, with the former ultimately claiming an away goals win to become the first-ever AFC Cup champions.


2005
Champions: Al Faisaly (Jordan)
Runners-up: Nejmeh SC (Lebanon)

The same format continued a year later and, while just nine countries were involved on this occasion, Al Faisaly and Al Hussein became the first teams to represent Jordan in the AFC Cup, with both advancing to the last eight.

While Al Hussein fell in the quarter-finals, Al Faisaly made it all the way to the final, where the Amman side would defeat Lebanon’s Nejmeh SC 4-2 on aggregate to lift the trophy.


2006
Champions: Al Faisaly (Jordan)
Runners-up: Al Muharraq (Bahrain)

Bahrain joined the party in 2006 as Al Muharraq became the first team from the West Asian nation to appear in the competition, which had expanded to six groups, and they would make it all the way to the final.

Standing in their way were holders Al Faisaly, who had scraped into the main event after defeating city rivals Al Wehdat, and they proved a hurdle too far with a Siraj Al Tall stoppage-time strike sealing a 5-4 aggregate win and successive titles for the Jordanians.


2007
Champions: Shabab Al Ordon (Jordan)
Runners-up: Al Faisaly (Jordan)

The fourth edition of the AFC Cup involved 24 teams from 13 Member Associations in six groups of four with the table-toppers and two best runners-up, one from West Asia Groups A, B and C and one from East Asia Groups D, E and F qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Defending champions Al Faisaly of Jordan were on track for a third consecutive title but countrymen Shabab Al Ordon denied them the hat-trick in the 2007 final, winning 2-1 on aggregate thanks to Mustafa Shehdeh's goal before half-time in the second leg.


2008
Champions: Al Muharraq (Bahrain)
Runners-up: Al Faisaly (Jordan)

In 2008, the tournament reduced its number by four with 20 teams from 10 countries involved on this occasion as Thailand, Vietnam and Turkmenistan did not participate.

The final saw Al Muharraq return to the tournament's climax for a second time after their defeat in the 2006 showpiece and this time there was no denying the Bahrain club as a goal-filled two legs saw them defeat Lebanon's Safa SC 10-5 on aggregate to be crowned champions.


2009
Champions: Kuwait SC (Kuwait)
Runners-up: Al Karamah (Syria)

After changes in the format of the AFC Champions League, the AFC Cup followed suit as it significantly expanded in participating teams (32) and introduced a Round of 16 for the first time.

In the tournament's new era it was Kuwait SC and Syria's Al Karamah, runners-up at the 2006 AFC Champions League, who met in the final. Omani striker Ismail Al Ajmi was the hero, netting the winner in stoppage time for a 2-1 win to cue delirium among the home fans at Kuwait SC Stadium.


2010
Champions: Al Ittihad (Syria)
Runners-up: Qadsia SC (Kuwait)

The seventh edition of the AFC Cup saw Qatar join the line-up for the first time as 31 teams were split into eight groups, but Al Rayyan exited in the Round of 16 after defeat to Thailand’s Muangthong United.

And although holders Kuwait SC were also eliminated in the Round of 16, it was again Syria versus Kuwait in the final as Al Ittihad faced Qadsia SC. After goals from Hamad Al Enezi and Taha Dyab cancelled each other out, the tie went to penalties with Al Ittihad emerging victorious.


2011
Champions: FC Nasaf (Uzbekistan)
Runners-up: Kuwait SC (Kuwait)

Defending champions Al Ittihad fell in the group stage but 2009 winners Kuwait SC returned to the fore by progressing all the way to the final, where they would meet Uzbekistan’s Nasaf in the Uzbek city of Qarshi.

Goals from Ilkhom Shomurodov and Andrejs Pereplotkins put the hosts in the driving seat and, although Boris Kabi pulled one back to set up an enthralling finale, it was the home support who were celebrating the final whistle with Nasaf crowned Uzbekistan’s first continental champions.


2012
Champions: Kuwait SC (Kuwait)
Runners-up: Arbil (Iraq)

Nasaf did not defend their title as they were entered into the 2012 AFC Champions League while Saudi Arabia and Myanmar had their first entrants in the continental competition.

Keen for redemption after 2011, Kuwait SC returned to the tournament climax and faced Iraq’s Arbil in the final. The Kuwaitis made no mistake this time with a brace from Chadi Hammami and goals from Rogerinho and Abudlhadi Khamis ensuring a dominant 4-0 win and a second AFC Cup title.


2013
Champions: Kuwait SC (Kuwait)
Runners-up: Al Karamah (Syria)

For the first time in the competition’s history, clubs from Tajikistan were involved the group stage, with FC Regar-Tadaz and FC Ravshan representing the Central Asian country, although both exited at the group stage having failed to pick up a win.

There were familiar faces in the final as holders Kuwait SC took on domestic rivals Qadsia SC and goals from Rogerinho and Issam Jemaa ensured the white-shirted men became the first side to retain the trophy since 2006, and the first to be crowned three-time AFC Cup winners.


2014
Champions: Qadsia SC (Kuwait)
Runners-up: Arbil (Iraq)

For the first time clubs from Kyrgyz Republic and Palestine took part in the AFC Cup with the two representative teams facing off in the playoffs as Alay Osh defeated Shabab Al Dhahiriya to reach the group stage.

The final featured an immediate return to the tournament's grandest stage for Qadsia SC and their clash with Arbil went to the wire with penalties needed. It proved third time lucky for the Kuwaitis as they came out on top of the shootout to make up for the disappointments of 2010 and 2013.


2015
Champions: Johor Darul T'azim (Malaysia)
Runners-up: FC Istiklol (Tajikistan)

The 2015 AFC Cup proved a groundbreaking year for the competition as for the first time no West Asian team was involved in the competition climax as Malaysian powerhouse Johor Darul Ta’zim and Tajikistan’s FC Istiklol were the two sides to advance to the final.

In front of a packed Pamir Stadium in Dushanbe, Argentine midfielder Leandro Velazquez's first-half strike proved enough for the visitors as JDT held out to be crowned their nation's inaugural continental champions following a hard-fought 1-0 win.


2016
Champions: Air Force Club (Iraq)
Runners-up: Bengaluru FC (India)

The 2015 AFC Cup final was the first time in the competition's history that a team from West Asia failed to make it to the main event, but a year later the region would make a return as Air Force Club progressed all the way in their maiden appearance, facing India's Bengaluru FC.

Both sides were looking to make history for their respective countries, but it proved to be the Iraqi team's day, thanks to Hammadi Ahmad's 16th goal of the tournament, avenging defeats for Arbil in the 2012 and 2014 finals. And it would not be their last time to lift the AFC Cup trophy.


2017
Champions: Air Force Club (Iraq)
Runners-up: FC Istiklol (Tajikistan)

The AFC Cup saw widespread changes to the tournament's format for the 2017 edition with the competition split into zones, and the respective Zonal champions fighting it out in the knockout stages.

Holders Air Force Club were crowned inaugural West Zonal champions and faced the first Inter-Zone champions FC Istiklol in the final, with the Tajikistan club hosting for the second time. And, unfortunately for Istiklol, it was a similar story: a 1-0 defeat seeing them finish as runners-up again.


2018
Champions: Air Force Club (Iraq)
Runners-up: Altyn Asyr (Turkmenistan)

A record 44 teams competed in the 2018 AFC Cup as Benfica Macau and Hang Yuan FC became the first representatives from Macau and Chinese Taipei respectively. Turkmenistan's Altyn Asyr progressed to the showpiece event against two-time defending champions Air Force Club.

It was an historic occasion with the final played in front of almost 25,000 spectators at Basra Sports City in Iraq, and the fans in attendance left happy as goals from Ahmad and Ibrahim Bayesh sealed a 2-0 win and an unprecedented third successive AFC Cup title.


2019
Champions: Al Ahed (Lebanon)
Runners-up: 4.25 SC (DPR Korea)

Iraq were not involved in the 2019 edition, meaning that for the first time since 2015 a name other than Air Force Club would be engraved on the trophy. And there was also a new country involved as Menang Marshyangdi Club became the first side from Nepal to enter the group stage.

After Nejmeh and Safa had lost in previous finals, Lebanon finally got their hands on the trophy. Unbeaten throughout and having not conceded in the knockout rounds, Al Ahed overcame DPR Korea's 4.25 SC 1-0 in the final thanks to a solitary strike from Ghanaian Issah Yakubu.


2020
Champions: N/A
Runner-ups: N/A

The 2020 edition of the competition got underway but was never completed as the COVID-19 pandemic ultimately forced its cancellation. There were, however, several notable talking points.

Bienvenido Marañón's five goals in three games took the Ceres Negros man to 35 in total and he now sits atop the tournament's scoring charts, while a four-goal haul for Hernan Barcos in Bashundhara Kings' 5-1 win over the Maldives' TC Sports was a memorable return from the Argentine in what was his only AFC Cup appearance.


Poll ends at 17:00 (UTC+8) on May 14.

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