April 11 – The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) must again quickly adjust their schedules as a new wave of covid has forced the withdrawal of China’s Shanghai Port FC from the Champions League group stages which begin later this month- this.

The Chinese Football Association (CFA) has confirmed the club’s withdrawal following recent lockdown measures in Shanghai as the Omicron BA.2 variant has spread to levels never seen before in China. Further containment measures are expected across China due to the highly transmissible nature of the virus and the Chinese government’s “zero tolerance” approach to controlling it.

The AFC have acknowledged that travel restrictions and the competitions body have ruled that all matches involving Shanghai Port FC will be canceled and there will be no replacement for the Group J club, which will now be made up of three teams – Thailand’s Chiangrai United FC, Hong Kong’s Kitchee SC and Japan’s Vissel Kobe – and will continue to play as a centralized group in Thailand.

The ripple effect of the withdrawal is that there will be a recalculation to decide the top three second-placed participating clubs that qualify for the Round of 16. Matches between participating clubs ranked second and fourth in all Champions League East groups – F, G, H, I and J – will not be taken into account in the final calculation.

The Group J matchday schedule will continue as planned, with Kitchee SC taking on Chiangrai United on April 16 while Vissel Kobe will open their campaign against Kitchee SC on April 19 at Buriram Stadium.

AFC Cup 2022

The AFC have also changed their Asian Cup schedule following the confirmation by the Football Association of the Maldives (FAM) of the withdrawal of the Valencian club from the competition.

They were due to play a preliminary qualifying match against Bangladesh’s Abahani Limited Dhaka tomorrow (April 12).

The Bangladeshis will now have a bye to the AFC Cup (South) knockout stage and will face the winners of the match between India’s ATK Mohun Bagan and Sri Lanka’s Blue Star SC on April 19, 2022, for the final spot in the group D.

Group D, which includes India’s Gokulam Kerala, Bashundhara Kings of Bangladesh and Maziya Sports and Recreation of the Maldives, is due to take place in Kolkata, India from May 18-24, 2022.

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