Thu, 28 Oct, 2021
Asian club football will soon embark on a bold new era as Asia's premier club competition the AFC Champions League and AFC Cup becoming more accessible to those member associations with the drive and ambition to claim their place in the upper strata of the Asian game.
But as one door opens another closes with the last edition of the AFC President's Cup taking place in Sri Lanka this month and asthe build up to the AFC's 60th Anniversary celebrations continue, the-afc.com turns looks back at a fascinating tournament that gave a platform to showcase the diversity and character of football from parts of the continent that often don't get the attention they deserve outside their region.
The AFC President's Cup was introduced to the Asian football calendar in 2005, in a move designed to afford an opportunity for the league champions of AFC's emerging nations to feature in a competitive continental competition.
The participating clubs embraced the concept and fans across the continental were given a window into football cultures from parts of Asia that seldom get their moment in the spotlight.
The AFC President's Cup journey began in 2005 when Regar TadAZ from Tajikistan defeated Kyrgyzstan's Dordoi Dynamo (now FC Dynamo) 3-0 to lift the inaugural title in Kathmandu.
Dordoi won the next two competitions in Malaysia and Pakistan, while Regar again reigned supreme in 2008 and 2009. The following year, Yadanarbon of Myanmar became the first winners of the competition from outside Central Asia when they defeated Dordoi 1-0 in Yangon.
Chinese Taipei became the first East Asian representative to win the competition in 2011 when Taiwan Power Company lifted the trophy in front of home support, while subsequent wins for Tajikistan's Istiqlol and Turkmenistan's Balkan in 2012 and 2013 ensured that there is still to be a winner from West or South Asia.
Palestine's Al Am'ari and KRL Football Club of Pakistan, did however make it into the finals in the 2012 and 2013 editions respectively.
There are three representatives from South Asia in the upcoming and last edition of the competition, while DPR Korea's Rimyongsu are making their debut. Erchim of Mongolia and FC HTTU are making their appearances in the finals for the first time.
In a year in which the AFC celebrates 60 years of glorious history the participating players and teams in the final edition of the AFC President's Cup have their chance to etch their names in the annals of Asian football lore ahead of a new chapter in continental club football.
And as the curtain comes down on the popular AFC President's Cup, clubs from emerging nations will bid farewell to the competition safe in the knowledge that there are more opportunities in the offing.
From 2015 onwards, the AFC has decided that the league champions from emerging nations can play in the AFC Cup qualification stage, and, therefore, showcase their talent at an even higher level.