HONG KONG: Southeast Asian football officials have rescheduled the regional ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Championship for a second time, pushing the competition back to the end of 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tournament, which features national teams from around the Southeast Asian region, was originally due to take place in November 2020 only to be moved to April and May next year.
However, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic has forced another shift in the schedule, with the regional body now slating the competition to start on Dec 5 with the second leg of the final to be held on Jan 1, 2022.
“As always, our first priority is the health and safety of everyone connected with the event,” AFF president Khiev Sameth said in a statement on Monday (Dec 7).
“As such, we have been monitoring COVID-19 developments, both within ASEAN and in the wider world, on a continuous basis.
"While there have been encouraging results in vaccine development, we are cognisant that the process of vaccine approval, as well as the practicalities of the distribution and implementation of vaccine programmes across the world including ASEAN, will take some time.
“Given the complexities around the organisation of the event (AFF Championship), and the many people and organisations that are impacted by it, the AFF believes in taking a pragmatic approach and making a considered decision early that will allow the stakeholders in the event to have enough notice to reorganise their activities – and so that planning for the end of the year can be focused around the AFF Suzuki Cup as a great occasion for football in the region as it has always been.”
The AFF has already postponed the launch of its new club competition, the ASEAN Club Championship, until 2022 due to a calendar tightly packed as a result of the numerous domestic and international competitions that have been rescheduled from 2020.
Vietnam are the AFF Championship holders having defeated Malaysia over two legs in the December 2018 final to claim the trophy for the second time in the competition’s 20-year history.