The Cambodian U-19 team will not be playing in Uzbekistan this year after the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) decided to cancel the AFC U-19 Championship 2020.
The continental championship was originally scheduled for November 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced for its postponement to March 2021. But with the pandemic still going on, the AFC finally decided to scrap the tournament for good.
“In line with FIFA’s decision to cancel the FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cups in 2021 and taking into consideration the safety and health of Asia’s youth players, the AFC has reluctantly decided to cancel the AFC U-16 Championship Bahrain 2020 and AFC U-19 Championship Uzbekistan 2020,” the AFC said in a statement released yesterday.
During the same announcement, the AFC said the next edition of the competition would still be held in Uzbekistan. The AFC U-19 Championship is held every two years. Saudi Arabia is the defending champion.
The Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) was set to announce the names of the 23 players who will represent the Kingdom in the tournament after holding a series of call-ups, tryouts and training sessions.
Japanese coach Koji Gyotoku is spearheading the selection process. Japanese goalkeeping guru Toshihiro Mitsumaru was recently tapped by the FFC to help Gyotoku.
The decision to cancel did not sit well with some of the players who helped Cambodia qualify for the tournament.
“We worked very hard to qualify. I feel sad and disappointed that we will not play in Uzbekistan, ”striker Vuth Tola told the local media.
Tola, who now plays for Prey Veng Football club, was a key member of the Cambodian U-19 team that competed in the AFC U-19 qualifiers.
Cambodia made history by qualifying for the AFC U-19 Championship for the first time in nearly fifty years. The Kingdom is in Group A together with the national teams of Uzbekistan, Iran and Indonesia.
The other 12 qualifiers are Japan Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Laos, Australia, Qatar, Tajikistan, Malaysia, Yemen and South Korea.
In the addition to the competitions in Bahrain and Uzbekistan, the AFC also decided to cancel the 2020 AFC Futsal Championship in Kuwait and the 2021 AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup in Thailand.
“We are grateful for the support of the hosts for these competitions who agreed with the AFC the need to safeguard the interests of all stakeholders during this time of uncertainty and taking into the consideration the risks of the current pandemic, “AFC Secretary-General Dato Windsor John was quoted as saying by Asian News International.
So far, the pandemic has claimed the lives of 2.14 million people and infected another 99.7 million across the globe.