Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait will participate in this year’s WAFF Championship. According to Atlas Sport, Jibril Rajoub, who serves as one of the Federation’s VPs was crucial in convincing the heads of the respective FAs. The tournament will feature nine teams (Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria are the others) and will run from the September 24th to October 3rd. Matchdays and Groups will be announced on June 24th. The sixth edition of the tournament is suspected to be more competitive as the teams participating in January’s Asian Cup will use these matches to prepare.
The AFC has finally heard our screams and they have decided to change the setup of the Challenge Cup. There will be no direct entry into the competition’s final eight. [UPDATE:] Moreover, the format of the competition will be similar to the 2006 format. 16 teams will be placed in four groups of four, the top two teams will advance and play the finals tournament at a centralized location. These changes are expected to be ratified when the AFC Board meets in July. The next Challenge Cup tournament will take place in 2012 with qualifiers being played in March of 2011 and there could be quite a few changes. Direct qualification to the Asian Cup Finals is expected to stay as it is one of Bin Hammam’s pet projects. The list of participating teams could change drastically if the AFC decide to classify DPR as a developed association as opposed to developing (this would bar their participation). Moreover, if more underdeveloped associations decide to take part then teams like Turkmenistan, Tajikstan, Myanmar, and DPR Korea would be refused entry. This scenario is unlikely, however, as teams like Laos and Timor-Leste have never shown up and at least one team is probably going to withdraw due to unforeseen circumstances.