Asian glory could cost Australian teams Christmas, says Edwards

Johor Darul Ta'zim technical director Alistair Edwards Source: Twitter

Former Socceroo-turned-technical director Alistair Edwards revealed that Malaysian titans Johor Darul Ta’zim share the concerns of Australian teams regarding the challenges involved in finishing the AFC Champions League.

The east zone of the tournament, which was suspended early in the group stage in March due to the coronavirus outbreak, is due to resume on November 15 in the ‘biosecure bubble’ of Qatar.

The team that negotiates their way through the group and past three knockout stages will face Persepolis of Iran on December 18.

That won’t be the end of the journey however as 14-day quarantine periods are currently required in the countries of teams returning home.

For Perth Glory, Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC, the prospect of appearing in a first-ever Asian final is a greater possibility than usual as not all teams will be at full-strength.

This exciting prospect is tempered, however, by the fact that upon their return from a hectic period of eight games in just over a month, they may not be free from quarantine until the early days of 2021.

“You could be in quarantine over Christmas and the holiday period and that would not be easy for players and staff,” Edwards, formerly of Perth Glory and Sydney Olympic, told The World Game.

There is another problem with the new A-League season due to kick off on December 27.

“The teams, FFA and government have to sit down together to find a solution to what happens when the teams return,” Edwards added.

“The three top teams will be away and have to quarantine and then start the A-League straight away. I understand why the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) wants to finish the tournament but to be asked to do this is really tough.”

Johor Darul Ta’zim, or, JDT, have won the last seven Malaysian Super League titles and face similar issues.

“At the same time we have the Malaysia Cup. This is prestigious but then the AFC Champions League is more prestigious,” he said.

Going to Qatar will be a challenge and not least because when the western zone took place in Doha in September, defending champions Al-Hilal were forced to withdraw after recording over 30 infections among players and staff.

“Now we have to go to Doha and we don’t have to quarantine when we arrive as there is testing in place,” Edwards said.

“But players are not allowed out of the hotel except for training and games. What happens when we return home? Will there be quarantine?”

“There were plans to start next season in January in Malaysia which is impossible if we are still involved in Asia, and now that is being pushed back. It is very difficult to plan.”

Edwards believes it would have been easier if the eastern zone had been hosted in Johor, as was the intention before the games were moved to Qatar.

“We could have had it here but the government of Malaysia did not approve plans to allow teams from different countries to come here as you would have to bypass the quarantine rules," he added. "There were a lot of issues.”