The All India Football Federation (AIFF) is exploring the possibility of placing a bid to host the matches involving Group E (West Zone) of the AFC Champions League scheduled to be held later this year. Unlike other seasons, each of the 10 groups will be playing their matches at centralised venues in this year’s tournament. Group E features FC Goa alongside Iran’s Persepolis and Qatar’s Al-Rayyan. The fourth slot will go to the winner of the qualifying game between UAE’s Al-Wahda FC and Iraq’s Al-Zawraa SC. The bids for the same will be invited soon.
The draw for the competition was held on Wednesday, with the West region group stage games to be held between April 14 and 30 and the East region matches between April 21 and May 7. Following this, the initial knockout stages are scheduled for the second half of September with the two-legged semi-finals to kick off on October 19. The final too will be a two-legged affair and will be held on November 21 and 27.
The development should come as a positive piece of news for FC Goa. The team which has been in a bio-secure bubble since October last year, finishes its Indian Super League (ISL) group stage commitments in late February. If they qualify for the playoffs, that will extend their campaign till the middle of March which will still give them ample time to recover before the continental event.
If the AIFF does get the nod, chances are that Goa will be chosen as the centralised venue for the Group E matches since the state federation and local stakeholders are aware of the SOPs that are needed to be followed. Playing in home conditions will therefore be a big boost for FC Goa’s chances considering the fact that they have been placed in a tough group. Whether fans will be allowed inside stadiums is another topic that is yet to be decided. If they are, it will be a further boost for FC Goa players.