The team draw for the AFC Cup East Asian group play-off was decided in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, pitting local team Benfica Macau against North Korea’s April 25 Sports Club, Taiwan’s Hang Yuen FC, and a third team either also from North Korea or from Mongolia.
The Macau team is participating for the first time in the group stage of this competition, according to a statement from Benfica, and will contend for a place in the knockout rounds. It is the first club from Macau to reach the group stage of the AFC cup.
A total of six games will be played; three at home in Macau and three away to be held in Taiwan, North Korea and possibly Mongolia. Some of the away games will inevitably cause complications for local organizers, though they insist it is “not an impossible task,” and well worth it since it will put the region on the international club football stage of Asia.
“It is an honor for us to take the football played by Macau clubs to the international stage of the AFC Cup,” said club director Duarte Alves. “This is a tournament followed by an audience of many millions, involving a total of 36 clubs coming from so faraway countries such as Syria, Philippines, Uzbekistan and Indonesia.”
Meanwhile, the club director expects that the team will find support from local authorities in preparing the logistical and financial groundwork for the home games. In particular, local organizers will need to meet strict compliance and regulations imposed by the AFC.
“We always received support and encouragement from the MSAR government, namely the Sports Institute,” said Alves. “This support is being reinforced now, due to the experience we have already acquired and it will allow us to match fan’s expectations and involve the most people possible in Macau, namely the youth.”