Chennai City to play their AFC Cup group stage matches in Maldives

CHENNAI CITY'S REMAINING matches at the AFC Cup group stage will be played at the Ramsee-Dhandu National Stadium in Male, Maldives.

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of all continental club football matches in Asia, the Asian Football Confederation decided that the AFC Cup group stage matches would resume with a central venue so players can be safely housed and exempted from continuous international travel, reducing their risk of infection.

After bids were accepted mid-July, the AFC decided to grant the hosting rights of the South Asian group (Group E) to Football Association of Maldives. President of the Maldives FA, Bassam Adeel Jaleel, shared the news on social media.

The choice of Maldives makes sense since it's an island nation, the smallest among the participants, and has had a relatively low outbreak of the novel coronavirus. According to govt data, by 20th July, Maldives had less than 3,000 total cases, 15 deaths and only 615 cases remained active.

Chennai City FC, who drew 2-2 at home in their first group stage match against Maziya, have 5 matches to go, and have been given the tentative fixtures for those games...

23rd October - TC Sports vs Chennai City
26th October - Chennai City vs Bashundhara Kings
29th October - Bashundhara Kings vs Chennai City
1st November - Maziya vs Chennai City
4th November - Chennai City vs TC Sports

Only the group winners will progress to the knockouts. Depending on the state of the outbreak in November, the AFC may decide to hold the knockout stage matches at a central venue as well. Single-leg matches may replace the traditional double leg home-away encounters.

With India on the 10th position in West Asia at the AFC MA rankings, even one position slip may cause India to lose their newly granted AFC Champions League group stage slot (which came into effect after the tournament's expansion to include 8 new clubs) for the 2022 edition. The slot is reserved for the league stage winners of the Indian Super League.

With Chennai City FC being the sole Indian representatives in Asian club football following Bengaluru FC's exit from the AFC Cup qualifiers, the entire ISL now depends on CCFC, an I-League club, to preserve their cherished ACL slot.

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