By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
GROUPINGS for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup 2020 were officially revealed on Tuesday at the draws held at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Included in the teams playing in the nine groups are top local club football teams Ceres-Negros FC and Kaya FC-Iloilo, who are hoping to do well in the initial stage of the ASEAN zone of the competition to advance to the next round.
The group play starts in February.
Philippines Football League champion Ceres-Negros FC is drawn in Group G, along with Vietnam’s Than Quang Ninh and Indonesian champion Bali United. They will be joined by the winner of the playoff between Laos’ Master 7 FC and Cambodia’s Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC.
The three-time PFL champion will also compete in the qualifying round of the AFC Champions League in January where it will need consecutive victories against three different teams to make the group stage.
First up will be Myanmar champion Shan United whom it will meet for the second time in the preliminaries on Jan. 14. The winner of the first match will earn the right to face Thailand FA Cup champion Port FC. Japan League Runners-Up FC Tokyo waits in the final playoff round.
Should the team find its way to the group stage, it will face South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai, China’s Shanghai Shenhua, and Australia’s Perth Glory in Asia’s elite football competition.
Ceres-Negros will be competing in its sixth straight year in continental competitions.
KAYA IN GROUP H
Kaya, meanwhile, will be playing in Group H in the AFC Cup with Singapore’s Tampines Rovers, Indonesia’s PSM Makassar, and Myanmar’s Shan United.
The grouping could still change, however, as Tampines Rovers and Shan United qualified for the preliminary round of the AFC Champions League.
If said teams do well in the Champions League their spots will be given to other teams.
Regardless of the teams they will face, Kaya acknowledges that its road would not be an easy one.
“It’s a tough group again as usual. We go back to Indonesia, we visit Myanmar, and Singapore,” said Kaya stalwart Ali Borromeo, who represented the team in the draw.
But he expressed excitement on taking on the challenge, saying “Considering that we have our core guys in the squad still, and that it’s our third time in AFC Cup competition, we should be up to par this time. We should be ready to go in February. I hope we get the team chemistry going by then, and we should be on track.”