The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has submitted an expression of interest to host the games of Group E (West Zone) in the AFC Champions League featuring FC Goa as well as those of Group D in the AFC Cup, which features ATK Mohun Bagan. Goa and Kolkata have been chosen as the two host venues should their bid be accepted. Five training venues have also been identified for each of the two competitions. Fellow Indian Super League (ISL) outfit Bengaluru FC, who are the other Indian team participating in the AFC Cup, have been asked to organise their playoff games.
FC Goa will be the first Indian club to play in the group stages of the premier continental event and have been drawn alongside Iran’s Persepolis and Qatar’s Al-Rayyan in Group E. The final slot will be taken by the winner of the playoff between UAE’s Al-Wahda FC and Iraq’s Al-Zawraa SC. The Nehru Stadium in Fatorda and the GMC Stadium in Bambolim have been earmarked as the two potential venues for the Gaurs’ Champions League campaign.
On the other hand, ATK Mohun Bagan have been grouped alongside Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings, Maldives’ Maziya and the winner of the playoff round in group D which may turn out to be Bengaluru if they are able to win their preliminary round clashes. Kolkata’s Yuva Bharati (Salt Lake) Stadium will be the Mariners’ home venue if AIFF gets the nod.
With both the AFC club competitions being held in centralized venues this season, the ACL group stage matches of the West Zone are scheduled to kick off on April 14th while those of the East Zone start a week later on April 21. Thereafter, the knockout stages will be held in September while the double-legged semifinals and finals will be held in late October and late November respectively. As far as the AFC Cup is concerned, matches of the South Zone commence on May 14, followed by zonal finals involving South, Central and East Zone clubs in August. The ASEAN and West Zonal finals will be played out on August 25 and late October respectively, with the inter zonal semifinals and finals tentatively scheduled for September 14-29 and October 20 to November 3 respectively.