x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Arabian Gulf League clubs have to wait until November to learn of ACL qualification

Al Wahda, Al Jazira and Al Shabab must wait until November to learn whether they will make it into the Asian Champions League after changes to the qualification criteria by the AFC.

Al Wahda, in white, will not know until November their Asian Champions League fortunes. Shadi Malkawi / Al Ittihad
Al Wahda, in white, will not know until November their Asian Champions League fortunes. Shadi Malkawi / Al Ittihad

DUBAI // Curtains have come down on the Arabian Gulf League, and despite Al Ahli running away with the title, Al Wahda, Al Jazira and Al Shabab must be pleased to come through in the engrossing battle for a top-four finish.

If Ahli beat Al Ain in Sunday’s President’s Cup, then all four can expect to earn a spot in next year’s Asian Champions League (ACL).

But they will have to wait until November to know if their efforts have paid off.

Last month, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced their revised qualification criteria for the 2015 and 2016 Champions League, which would involve ranking member associations according to the performance of their national teams and their clubs in the ACL over the past four years.

The AFC will announce the rankings in November, with 30 per cent of the points allotted to the performance of the national team and 70 per cent to the performance of the clubs.

All 47 member associations will feature in the rankings, with the top 24 eligible to participate in the ACL. Countries ranked between 25 to 32 will get a direct berth in the group stages of the AFC Cup, while those ranked lower will get an opportunity to make it to the AFC Cup group stages through the play-off stage.

The top two nations in the rankings, from the West Zone and the East Zone, will each get three direct and one play-off spot.

Countries ranked third and fourth in their zones will each get two direct spots and two play-off spots, while the fifth-ranked member associations will get one direct slot and two play-off spots. The two sixth-ranked nations will get one direct and one play-off spot each.

According to rough estimations, the UAE is expected to figure fourth in the West Zone rankings behind Saudi Arabia, Iran and Uzbekistan, and Mohammed Al Rumaithi, the chairman of the Pro League Committee, seems to concur.

“Based upon current stats, and the guarantee that one UAE team will reach at least the quarter-final of this year’s competition, it can be anticipated that the UAE will be handed two direct slots and two play-off slots in the 2015 edition of the tournament,” he said last week.

“But the exact number and distribution of slots will not be confirmed by the AFC until November.”

The managers of Wahda, Jazira and Shabab, however, will not be pleased to know they will have to wait until November before their Champions League hopes are confirmed are dashed.

“In Europe, the laws are made clear before the start of the season and not changed in the middle of the season,” Jose Peseiro, the Wahda coach, said earlier in the season when he was told about the uncertainty regarding the ACL slots. “You cannot do that.”

Unfortunately for Peseiro, and many others like him, things work differently in Asia.

arizvi@thenational.ae