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Suzuki Cup postponed until 2021

AFF Suzuki Cup final second leg match between Vietnam and Malaysia at Muy Dinh National Stadium on December 15, 2018 in Hanoi, Vietnam. (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)

The 2020 Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup national team football competition has been postponed until next year due to Covid-19.

The tournament, which is contested by 10 teams in Southeast Asia, was due to take place from November 23 until December 31. The AFF is working with member federations on dates for the 2021 tournament.

The federation said in a press release that the postponement decision had been taken “in view of the rapidly deteriorating coronavirus situation, regionally and globally”. The federation had discussed its options for the competition during meetings this week. It has been monitoring guidance from the World Health Organisation, national health ministries and government agencies, Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation.

The tournament is played as a series of home and away fixtures, with matches across Southeast Asia. Strict border controls and social distancing measures remain in place across the region, and there is little sign of them lifting in the near future. Other high-profile sports events in the region have been postponed, including the Formula One grands prix in Singapore and Vietnam, and a slew of golf, tennis and badminton tournaments.

Goal.com reported that Vietnam, one of the countries that has had greatest success in tackling the virus, several weeks ago suggested staging the tournament entirely within its borders. The country has since experienced a new outbreak and this week halted its football league season.

The Straits Times reported that the AFF would prefer to retain the home and away format next year but is also considering hosting the tournament in one country.

AFF president, Major General Khiev Sameth, said: “This pandemic continues to pose enormous health, societal and economic challenges to us all. AFF’s top priority continues to be the health and safety of our football family and mitigating the impact of this pandemic. With the risk of the spread of Covid-19 remaining high, the AFF finds itself in a situation where we cannot proceed safely with the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020.”

Commercial rights for the tournament are managed by the Sportfive agency. Adrian Staiti, president APAC at Sportfive, said his company “supports the decision by the AFF to postpone the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 to ensure the safety and well-being of all players, partners, staff and fans. While we are disappointed that we are unable to hold the tournament this year, we will work closely with the AFF to monitor the situation and look forward to working with our partners to deliver a great tournament for the fans of Asean next year.”