AFC Solidarity Cup 2020 cancelled

Fadhil Yunus

Brunei Darussalam’s national football team and their nearest continental rivals in the world rankings will not compete in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Solidarity Cup 2020 after the AFC announced the cancellation of the tournament recently.

It was scheduled to be held on November 30 until December 13.

The next instalment of the competition will be in 2024 with the participating teams only likely to be determined once the AFC first round of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers reaches its conclusion, subject to any changes of eligibility.

The tournament serves as a platform for countries that have little opportunities to organise international friendly matches.

“These are tough times for everyone connected with football – and sport in general. We are taking steps to ensure the financial well-being of the AFC and its MAs (member associations),” said AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.

Brunei Darussalam National Team’s home ground – the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas. PHOTO: FADHIL YUNUS

Brunei was considered to be one of the original members in the inaugural edition of the tournament in Kuching, Malaysia in 2016.

The tournament, which replaced the AFC Challenge Cup, has since been expanded to 10 teams.

The national team gained entry in the second edition as one of the losers of the AFC First Round of the 2022 World Cup qualification.

The Wasps missed out on a place in the second round of the qualifying phase following a 3-2 aggregate defeat against Mongolia in June last year.

Qualified teams included Timor Leste, Laos, Pakistan, Macau and Bhutan. Pakistan and Bhutan would have made their debut in the 10-member tournament.

The remaining four slots had been reserved for teams who are knocked out in the AFC Playoff Round 2.

After suffering penalty heartbreak against Macau in the semi-finals, Brunei ended the 2016 tournament in fourth place following a 3-2 play-off defeat against Laos.

The country did not leave empty-handed, however, as national striker Shahrazen Said bagged the top scorer award after scoring four goals in the tournament.

The AFC has also announced that the AFC Under-16 and Under-19 Championships in Bahrain and Uzbekistan respectively have been postponed until early 2021.

The Brunei under-16 and under-19 teams attempted to qualify in the continental meet through the respective qualification tournaments in Indonesia and Cambodia last year.