The AFC President's Cup competition will be winging its way to Phnom Penh very soon, when Group A of the three qualifying groups will be hosted at the Olympic Stadium by Phnom Penh Crown and the country's Football Federation. The first game will kick-off at 1.30pm on Saturday 21 May - with Crown's debut at 4pm that same afternoon against Don Bosco - and lots of work is already going on behind the scenes to get everything ship-shape for this prestigious event, making its first appearance on Cambodian soil. Two matches will be played on the three match-days of 21, 23 and 25 May, with Crown starting their matches at 4pm on each of the days. The top two teams in the group will progress to the finals of the cup at a venue to be decided at a later date.
The national champions of 12 countries have been chosen for this year's AFC President's Cup. They are the champions of what the Asian Football Confederation designates 'emerging' nations under their 46-member umbrella. The mature nations take part in the AFC Champions League and the developing countries play in the AFC Cup. The 12 emerging nations are: Cambodia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Tajikistan, Nepal, Taiwan, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar, Turkmenistan and Palestine. The President's Cup champions will receive prize money of $50,000 but they don't get automatic promotion to the nest step, the AFC Cup the following year. In fact it's not clear how a country progresses from the emerging category into the developing one, but one of the key factors is the standard of the country's football association, as well as their success on the field. For example, Tajikistan's Regar-TadAZ have won the President's Cup on three occasions in the past and yet their country is still considered as emerging. Seems a bit harsh to me.
Whilst the matches in Group A will take place from 21-25 May, Group B will be held in Myanmar from 13-17 May, with last year's champions Yadanarbon looking to defend their crown against teams from Bhutan, Tajikistan and the unknown quantity, Palestine. Group C has already been completed with both the Taiwan Power Company and Turkmenistan's FC Balkan grabbing the top 2 places to progress to the finals. The hosts from Nepal lost all three games and the champions of Pakistan also went out.