PETALING JAYA: It was supposed to be the end of the year joy after a long, challenging period. But it turned into a whimper.
The AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 has been postponed to next year because of the rapidly deteriorating Covid-19 situation, regionally and globally. And even the new dates of the regional tournament remain a big question, with many other commitments for the various national teams.
The Asean Football Federation (AFF), in a statement, announced that the health and safety of the players, coaches, partners, fans and the public were of the highest priority, and it was thus postponing the tournament to 2021.
The AFF Suzuki Cup Task Force Committee held extensive discussions before reaching this decision.
“Since the onset of Covid-19, the AFF has been closely monitoring guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Health Ministries, government agencies, FIFA and AFC, ” said AFF president Maj-Gen Khiev Sameth.
Football Association of Malaysia’s (FAM) secretary-general Stuart Ramalingam said the decision was not easy as it was made under difficult circumstances with the pandemic going on unabated.
“It will tremendously impact the football calendar next year. We have to wait for the dates to be confirmed and then make our plans. Next year, the priority will be the 2022 World Cup-2023 Asia Cup qualifying campaign, ” he said.
“Depending on when the Suzuki Cup is held, the national team committee will decide on the team to field.”
Asked what would be the preferred dates, Stuart said it would be best to do it at the end of 2021, when all the South-East Asian leagues are over.
“There have been some dates floated to the associations, but on our side, we feel that end of the year would be the best. We do not want to congest the middle section of the 2021 calendar.
“That period will be filled with the qualifiers and don’t forget the AFC Champions League. We do not want to overburden the middle phase. It will be a tough ask to play the championships then.”