India has got the play-off slot after a gap of two years. Dempo were the last Indian club to play in the play-offs in 2011.
New Delhi: India has been awarded a play-off slot for next year’s Asian Champions League, the continent’s top-tier club competition in football.All India Football Federation said that last season I-League runners-up Pune FC will feature in the play-off.
Churchill Brothers were the winners of the last I-League season (2012-13) but they have not fulfilled the AFC Club Licensing criteria required to take part in Asian Champions League.Pune FC is the only club in the country which has fulfilled the AFC Club Licensing criteria.
India has got the play-off slot after a gap of two years. Dempo SC were the last Indian club to play in the play-offs of the AFC Champions League in 2011 where they lost to Qatar Stars League heavyweights Al Sadd.
Two AFC Cup slots have also been allocated to India with a caveat that should Pune FC fail to qualify for the main round of the Asian Champions League, they would take up one AFC Cup slot with I-League Champions Churchill Brothers being the other.
However, if Pune FC make it to the 2014 AFC Champions League, the door will be open for AFC Cup semi-finalists East Bengal who finished third in the I-League last season to try and better their performance in the international arena. Reacting to the development, Pune FC Owner Nandan Piramal said, “When we started Pune Football Club (PFC) in 2007, one of our goals was to represent India in the AFC Champions League. It is indeed a proud moment for us to have achieved that milestone.
This was due to a lot of hard work on the part of the entire PFC family – the players, the coaches, the support staff within the PFC family and of course, the fans.”The draw for the play-off will be made on December 10 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Pune FC will play in East Zone play-off.
Chirag Tanna, Pune FC Head Operations, said, “This is a proud moment. It has truly been a team effort to get here. On the field the players and coaches did their bit and off the field the administrative staff ensured that we fulfilled the licensing criteria.”