Thailand fans will have to wait for a full year before they have the opportunity to see if the War Elephants can win back the AFF Suzuki Cup title.
The ASEAN Football Federation has confirmed that the tournament has been rescheduled once more – this time for a December 5th, 2021 start and running until a New Year’s Day final on January 1st, 2022.
The AFF had originally postponed the 2020 edition until April-May 2021. However, as the Covid-19 pandemic showing no signs of abating in the short-term, it has been decided that a delay of a full year will be necessary if the biennial competition is to go ahead in its intended format.
The AFF have no intention of holding the tournament in the bubble-like, fan-free conditions that have been used to complete the 2020 AFC Champions League tournament in a single location.
AFF President Major General Khiev Sameth said, “The new dates, starting on 5th December and running into 1st January 2022, will provide the best opportunity for the event to be staged in its full format with home and away fixtures in both the group and knockout stages, and with stadiums filled with fans to encourage and celebrate their teams.”
Under head coach Akira Nishino, Thailand will be determined to win back the trophy they have lifted five times, including at two of the previous three tournaments – in 2014 and 2016.
It remains to be seen if the spread of the pandemic will have eased sufficiently for the AFF to hold the tournament on the rescheduled dates.
However, it does seem a pragmatic move to take away the growing uncertainty surrounding the April-May period, with many countries in the region still seeing many cases of the virus and/or having significant travel restrictions in place.