After a long wait, the next chapter of the ASEAN football’s biggest international competition finally has a home.
In an announcement this Tuesday evening, the members of the ASEAN Football Federation council chose Singapore to host this year’s edition, which shall remain branded as the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup to reflect its postponement from last year.
“We welcome the ASEAN Football Federation’s selection of Singapore as host of the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup,” commented Philippine Football Federation President Mariano V Araneta.
“Singapore has a wonderful track record in hosting major competitions and we are confident that this year’s AFF Suzuki Cup will be conducted with the health and safety of players and staff as the main priority amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The original version was of this edition was supposed to be held last November 23 to December 21, 2020, in a home-and-away format. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the AFF member nations’ difficulties in controlling its transmission has put a stop to those plans.
Thankfully, though, the rise of the use of biosecurity bubbles to maintain the safety of sporting events has prospered and vaccination of the countries in question is ongoing.
“Singapore is not on the red list in terms of COVID-19 restrictions in other countries so I think traveling there will be easier. What is important for us is to assemble the right team for this tournament considering all the restrictions on different countries from where our players will come from,” said long-time Philippine Azkals team manager Dan Palami.
“We set our ambitions high and we will represent the country in the best way we can.”
After four semi-final finishes in their 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2018 campaigns, the Azkals hope to make the finals for the first time in the country’s history.
Coach Scott Cooper’s men have been grouped with the likes of host nation Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, and one of Timor Leste and Brunei Darussalam in Group B.
“I think for now we can’t have early training camps, unlike Singapore or Thailand can, because our players are scattered worldwide. And that’s still going to be a logistical challenge for us to see who we can bring in, like the players who aren’t in season and the players in season,” said Cooper.
“We cannot be at full strength, but we’ll still give our best shot.”
The tournament takes place from December 5 to January 1, 2022.
The AFC Under-23 Asian Cup 2022 Qualifiers also happens in the same country this October. With this, Cooper looks to acclimate himself and some potential members of the seniors team in the youth squad to the venue as a headstart.
“Being in Singapore is something that we are okay with and pleased about. We will be there in October for the Under-23s and it gives us a chance to familiarize ourselves with the venue,” said Cooper.
“Of course, the last time we played against Singapore was in Bacolod and we beat them here, 1-0. So I’m sure that they want revenge, and we’ll see the same in the other games too.”