Only one club from Bangladesh is likely to get the opportunity to participate in next year's AFC Cup following a flawed football season in Bangladesh.
Generally, the defending champions of the Federation Cup and Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) are granted the chance to compete in the AFC Cup, a tournament for second-tier clubs across Asia, subject to meeting AFC Club licensing criteria. The BPL champions are allowed to directly enter the group stages of the competition while the Federation Cup winners must go through a qualifying round.
However the flawed annual calendar, which was announced a few days ago, deprives the BPL champions their chance to play in the 2019 AFC Cup as the tournament's group stage is set to get underway in April next year, one month before the BPL is completed.
On the other hand, the Federation Cup will conclude long before the AFC's deadline to register entries on November 15 as the season's curtain-raising tournament is scheduled to get underway from October 22.
“This time the Bangladesh Premier League champions will not be eligible to play in the 2019 AFC Cup but rather only the winners of the Federation Cup will be eligible to play the AFC Cup qualifiers,” BFF general secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag said yesterday. “Although the deadline for sending names of clubs has been fixed on November 15, by which period the Bangladesh Premier League will not be completed, the champions of 2018-19 season will get the chance to play in the 2020 AFC Cup.”
Shohag added that for clubs to participate in the AFC Cup they must have AFC Club licensing, which can be renewed every year. Abahani, Mohammedan SC and Saif SC have all previously secured the AFC Club license.
Abahani qualified for last edition's AFC Cup by becoming champions of both the Federation Cup and BPL, and so Saif SC were given opportunity to play in the AFC Cup as the second team from Bangladesh despite finishing fourth in the 12-team league table, courtesy of their AFC Club licensing.