AFC Club of the Year nominees:
Western Sydney Wanderers (Australia) : AFC Champions League champions
Al Qadsia (Kuwait) : AFC Cup champions
FC HTTU Ashgabat (Turkmenistan) : AFC President`s Cup champions
After Altyn Asyr were crowned today for the 1st time as the new Turkmenistan champions, now we know all the teams who won their respective leagues in Central Asia (Former Soviet Republics who are AFC members)
2014 Uzbek League Champions : Pakhtakor Tashkent
2014 Tajik League Champions : Istiklol Dushanbe
2014 Kyrgyz League Champions: FC Dordoi Bishkek
2014 Turkmenistan League Champions: FC Altyn Asyr
Curiously last time that Pakhtakor and Dordoi won their domestic leagues were in 2012.
Last time Istiklol Dushanbe won their domestic league was in 2011
This year also those 3 teams didn`t played in Asian competition and now they will return to the Asian scene next year.
Pakhtakor established a record of not to lose any match of their domestic league this season, a great achievement for them.
Pakhtakor will try to advance to the final stages of the AFC Champions League next year with a team that has done very good this year and has kept a very good playing level too.
Altyn Asyr created history in Turkmenistan by winning their 1st ever domestic league and now next year they will play the AFC Cup Qualifiers dreaming to qualify for the group stage of the competition and fly the Turkmenistan flag very proudly, last time Turkmenistan clubs played in the group stage of the AFC Cup were in 2007 with HTTU Ashgabat and Nebitçi Balkanabat known now as FC Balkan who last year won the AFC President`s Cup.
also for Istiklol and Dordoi is ther 1st time they will play AFC Cup because last time they played in Asian competition were in the AFC President`s Cup in 2012 in which Istiklol claimed the champion in home soil where all matches were played at Central Republican stadium(Республиканский центральный стадион “Памир”) in Dushanbe.
It started in 2004 as a competition for so called developing countries who were taking part at the Vision Asia program, Syria won the tournament in that inaugural year.
The competition has evolved with the years with many new countries featuring since 2009, they came from the AFC Champions League(Iraq, Syria, Thailand, Vietnam) and there were ore countries who joined the competition through the AFC President`s Cup, Myanmar being the 1st one followed by Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Palestine.
Yangon United were the 1st team from a country who played at AFC President`s Cup that qualified for the Roundof 16 of the AFC Cup in 2014. they have become a dominant force in Myanmar in the recent years battling against Yadanarbon and Kanbawza, making a name in the Asian scene and flying proudly the Myanmar flag.
Kuwait has become most successful team in the competition with their clubs winning the last 3 years in a row, 2 times from Kuwait SC and 1 from Al Qadsia.
Jordan become successful in the first years the competition withy Al Faisaly claiming the trophy in 2005 and 2006 and with Shabab Al Ordun winning in 2007, in that year of 2007 it was the 1st time who featured an all Jordanian final where Shabab Al Ordun won to Al Faisaly.
Arbil from Iraq won the tournament in 2009 and in the next year it was a Syrian team who won again the tournament, it was Al Ittihad of Aleppo in an historic campaign and playing the final at home soil.
West Asia has been the dominant force in the competiton while Southeast Asian teams haven`t been lucky of not to reaching the final match.
Southeast Asian teams and Hong Kong who are the only representative from East Asia in the competition have struggled to succedd at AFC Cup, the most far they have reached are the semifinals, its more difficult for them to reach the final because at semifinals stage they always play against very experienced and strong teams from West Asia, mostly from countries like Kuwait and Iraq.
The initial years were marked by the dominance of team from Hong Kong and Singapore and in 2005 surprisingly New Radiant reached the semifinals becoming the 1st Maldivian club to reach that stage, they were near to reach the same stage in 2013 but they were eliminated by future champions Kuwait SC.
2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011 were the only years that Southeast Asian teams reached the semifinals.
Teams from Thailand and India started playing from 2007 onwards.
Teams from Vietnam and Indonesia started playing from 2009 onwards.
South China, Persipura Jayapura, New Radiant, Kitchee, Dempo, East Bengal, Chonburi, Muangthong United, Binh Duong, Sun Hei are some of the teams that have reached as far as the semifinal stage.
In an amazing campaign the Australian team achieved a big milestone for Australian football Western Sydney Wanderers made histoyrry becoming the 1st club that wins the most important Asian club competition, in 2008 Adelaide United reached the final but lost both matches vs Gamba Osaka from Japan.
It was the 2nd time that an Australian team reached the final this time the Wanderers looking to win it and finally they did it, Tomi Juric gave the Australian team the advantage and he could score 2nd goal but his shot crashed in the post and Ante Covic was a real wall, in the 2nd leg in Riyadh it proved to be the real challenge for the Australian team, the most important match in the history of Western Sydney Wanderers because they encountered rude Al Hilal fan support and hostile receving at King Fahd stadiumbut who became the real star of the match was Ante Covic who made an enourmous and amazing save 5 minutes before the game ends and denied a very clear goal chance from Yaser Al Qahtani, It truly was a miraclous save and Covic again was a real wall, Al Hilal did many attemps to score but it was Covic who became the Man of the Match (winning the Most Valuable Player award) with many great saves that helped Western Sydney Wanderers to claim their 1st continental title in just two-and-a-half years of existence, founded in April of 2012
This is one of the greatest achievements in the history of football in Australia.
But all of this started on 26 February 2013 – when Western Sydney made their Asian Champions League (ACL) debut, losing 3-1 at home to Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai, on matchday 2(March 12) they won their 1st ACL match vs Guizhou 1-0 in China, on matchday 3 they recorded their first ACL home game win, this time vs Kawasaki Frontale from Japan 1-0 but when they visited Kawasaki in the following matchday they lose 2-1, on matchday 5 they got a historic victory vs Ulsan 2-0 and on the final matchday they won at home vs Guizhou in a perfect andgreat style 5-0 vs Guizhou sealing their passage to the Round of 16
At Round of 16 they played vs Sanfreece Hiroshima, in the 1st leg they lose 3-1 at home but they again made history by winning 2-0 in Japan and qualifying for the quarterfinals thanks to the away goals rule, the quarterfinals proved to be a real test of fire because they played against the defending champions Guangzhou Evergrande, they made of Parramatta stadium their fortress and they won 1-0 in the 1st leg match but the diceider came to be very exciting in the 2nd leg in Guangzhou when Ante Covic stopped a penalty from Guangzhou and Western Sydney converted a very important goal that send them into the semifinals thanks again to the away goal rules despite Guangzhou winning the match 2-1
in the semifinals they played vs FC Seoul who was looking to reach the ACL Final again like they did in 2013, in the 1st leg Western Sydney Wanderers played very well and the defence were very disciplined and the forwards creating goal chancestoo, Covic not allowing any goal and becoming a very important figure that helped the Australians to get a 0-0,a positive result for the team guided by former Socceroos Tony Popovic, in the 2nd leg it was again that Wanderers were the most strongest side and won it 2-0 becoming the 2nd Australian team to reach the final after Adelaide United did the same in 2008
With this victory, the Western Sydney Wanderers have completed Australian football’s integration into Asia.
Coupled with hosting the Asian Cup in January, Australian football has truly found its home in the region.
The win also underlines one of the game’s greatest assets – its ability to reach beyond these shores in a meaningful and substantial manner.
All the team did an amazing campaign but the key players in this campaign were Ante Covic(goalkeeper), Tomi Juric(forward), Nikolai Topor Stanley(midfielder), Matthew Spiranovic(defender)