Bengaluru, September 11: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League, which was suspended from March just like many of other sports events across the globe, due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, will resume in two regional hubs from Monday (September 14) with a single match deciding the title on December 19.
The AFC Champions League featuring 32 teams, stretching from Saudi Arabia in the West to Japan in the East, started in February, before the tournament was suspended.
Now after a delay of six months, at least half of AFC Champions League will be back in action with the West Asian leg starting in Qatar on Monday.
The West Asian leg features clubs from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uzbekistan and the United Arab Emirates. The group stage and the first of two play-off rounds will be over by the end of September.
The later stages of the tournament will also see the introduction of video assistant referees (VAR) technology for the time at the AFC level.
The winner of the West Asian zone will be decided on October 3, when the top two teams compete at Al Sadd's Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.
The East Asia zone winner will be known only on December 10 as the AFC had to push back the restart to November 15 because of the strict travel restrictions in the region.
When the round-robin preliminary stage is over, there is still scheduled to be three knockout rounds - each decided on a single game rather than the usual home-and-away format - to decide which team from the east reaches the final.
AFC Cup cancelled
AFC had to make some tough calls during an online meeting of the executive committee, including the decision to cancel the remainder of the AFC Cup - the second-tier continental tournament featuring clubs from so-called developing leagues.
Doubts still persist as to whether the AFC Champions League can be completed as per schedule. The AFC has revealed that United Arab Emirates team Al Wahda will be unable to travel to Qatar after several members of the club tested positive for COVID-19.
"These are tough times for everyone connected with football and sport in general. I'm certain that we can overcome this latest challenge," said AFC President Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa.
(With AFC Media inputs)