AFC Champions League group stage marred by poor scheduling

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The AFC Champions League, The stage where Asia’s elite lock horns and strive towards procuring the prestigious crown of being the champions of Asia. Representing world football’s sleeping giants are FC Goa. Famed across the country for their enticing style of play and youth setup the Gaurs are now making international headlines. They have surpassed many expectations, They have proved all the skeptics who predicted a dejected debut campaign for them in the champions league wrong.

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Two remarkably resilient draws against champions league regulars Al-Wahda and Al-Rayyan had already earned FC Goa a spot in the hearts of Indian football fans but their incredible run carried on as they nearly pulled off a giant-killing act against former Asian Champions League runners up and Iranian giants Persepolis. FC Goa amazed millions by taking the lead against Persepolis, Captain Edu Bedia registered theirs and the country’s first-ever goal in Asia’s elite competition.

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The level and the intensity which is required for the champions league is tremendous and for the players to be at their best they need recovery time after intense clashes against high-class opponents. The AFC has scheduled the west zone group stage fixtures from April 14th to 29th. The teams have to play 6 games in just 15 days.

We are now halfway into the competition and the teams are already feeling the effects of the cramped schedule. As we go deeper into the tournament it will have an even severe impact on the teams. “The Weather and the humidity had the greatest impact on Al-Rayyan’s performance,” said Al-Rayyan’s world cup winning french gaffer Laurent Blanc after his team’s match against hosts FC Goa. These words from the Frenchman prove that these teams not only have to battle tight schedules but also the weather.

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The sweltering conditions in Goa, jammed schedules, and Ramadan fasting has affected the players both mentally and physically. Exposed to this level of intensity, the debutants are having an arduous campaign. “After half time many players told me ‘Juan, my legs are not okay to play, Maybe if the supporters were there in the stadium, they would have motivated and made the legs work more,” said FC Goa Coach Juan Ferrando after his team’s game against Persepolis.

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A tight schedule is an issue that needs to be given serious attention by the AFC officials. In these challenging times, players are facing a lot of stressful and strenuous issues like Bio Bubbles, Continuous Covid-19 tests, etc, packed fixtures just add insult to injury.

FC Goa will face Iranian side Persepolis again in their next fixture in the Asian Champions League.

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