SINGAPORE – There may be some light at the end of the tunnel for South-east Asian football with the latest sign suggesting the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup 2020 is on track.
The region’s governing body said on Wednesday (June 2) the official draw for the 10-team tournament will be held on Aug 10.
Further details of the draw, including the venue and format, will be announced in “due course”, the statement noted.
The biennial tournament is scheduled for Dec 5-Jan 1. It was delayed twice; the original November 2020 date was pushed back to this April due to the coronavirus pandemic before it was moved again.
Since the 2018 edition, won by Vietnam, competing teams played home and away games from the group stage to the final in a bid to attract more fans to the stadiums.
The previous format saw a host country or two co-hosts organise the group stages.
AFF president Major General Khiev Sameth said such a similar approach of holding the tournament at a single venue was a possibility due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
He said: “While AFF’s intention is to stage the tournament in its full format and schedule, including home and away matches at all stages, we also recognise the need to explore and be prepared for the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including possible alternative formats such as using centralised venues.
“The health and safety of our stakeholders will continue to be our top priority when we consider the various options for the tournament.”
Malcolm Thorpe, managing director of South-east Asia at Sportfive, the tournament’s commercial partner, emphasised that all stakeholders were working hard to ensure a safe and secure staging of the tournament which may see fans attend matches.
He added: “We are confident that all measures will be taken to ensure the safety of all participants and fans.”
Singapore has won the competition four times (1998, 2004, 2007, 2012) but has failed to make it past the group stages in the past three editions.
Under Japanese coach Tatsuma Yoshida, the Lions have improved in recent years and produced some good performances in their World Cup qualifying group, including a win over higher ranked Palestine and Yemen and are third in Group D with seven points. Saudi Arabia (11) and Uzbekistan (nine) lead the table.