By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
AFC Champions League 2020 action kicks off today with top local club football team Ceres-Negros FC hosting Shan United of Myanmar in a preliminary round 1 qualifying action at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Acknowledged as Asia’s most prestigious club competition, the AFC Champions League gather the top teams in the region as they angle to be crowned as the best in the tournament, which was won last year by Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal.
Bacolod-based Ceres, the three-time Philippines Football League champion, will try to make another spirited run, looking to better its performance from 2018 where it reached the third round of the preliminaries.
The quest begins for the “Busmen” today against Shan United in the scheduled 7:30 p.m. match where they hope to come away a winner to move to the next round of the preliminaries and continue to vie for a spot in the group stage of the AFC Champions League.
“We cannot promise anything, but we will represent the country in the best way possible. We are going to fight until the last minute to reach the next round. It’s a very hard competition. But we are going to try. We will give our best so I hope everyone will support us,” said Ceres coach Risto Vidakovic in the lead-up to today’s match.
The team will parade staples like Bienvenido Maranon, Stephan Schrock and Rolland Muller in the contest, joined by newly signed players Mark Hartmann, Pika Minegishi, Josh Grommen and Arnie Pasinabo.
Meanwhile, the AFC said it is expecting another solid run for the Champions League this year.
“The AFC Champions League has grown into one of the world’s leading club continental competitions and the growing appeal and new engagement records underline once again the AFC’s ambitions to continuously strengthen our competitions for the benefit of our member associations, players, clubs and fans,” said AFC General Secretary Dato’ Windsor John in a statement.
“Every year, we set out to improve each edition of the AFC Champions League and I have no doubts that we will witness another captivating season in 2020. I wish all our clubs the very best and I must thank all our stakeholders for sharing our belief and bringing our aspirations to life,” he added.
The preliminary round 2 stage is set to take place on Jan. 21 before the decisive play-offs on Jan. 28.