New Delhi: India has been awarded a play-off slot for next year’s Asian Champions League, the continent’s top-tier club competition in football.
The All India Football Federation said that last season’s I-League runners-up Pune FC will feature in the play-off.
Churchill Brothers won the I-League last year but have not fulfilled the AFC Club Licensing criteria required to take part in Asian Champions League.
Pune FC is the only club in the country which has fulfilled the AFC Club Licensing criteria.
India has got the play-off slot after a gap of two years.
Dempo SC were the last Indian club to play in the play-offs of the AFC Champions League in 2011 where they lost to Qatar Stars League heavyweights Al Sadd.
Two AFC Cup slots have also been allocated to India with a caveat that should Pune FC fail to qualify for the main round of the Asian Champions League, they would take up one AFC Cup slot with I-League Champions Churchill Brothers getting the other.
However, if Pune FC make it to the 2014 AFC Champions League, the door will be open for AFC Cup semifinalists East Bengal, who finished third in the I-League last season to try and better their performance in the international arena.
Reacting to the development, Pune FC (PFC) owner Nandan Piramal said, “When we started Pune Football Club in 2007, one of our goals was to represent India in the AFC Champions League.
“It is indeed a proud moment for us to have achieved that milestone. This was due to a lot of hard work on the part of the entire PFC family – the players, the coaches, the support staff within the PFC family and of course, the fans.”
The draw for the play-off will be made on December 10 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Pune FC will play in the East Zone play-off.
For Pune , the opportunity came after being in existence for seven years.
The club was founded in 2007 (launched on January 14, 2008) and so far have played four seasons of top-flight football in India.
They were the runners-up side in the 2012-13 edition of the I-League. (PTI)