|Shabab Al-Khalil is loaded with Palestinian NT players|
This morning, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) conducted the draw for the 2017 AFC Cup. This edition marks the fourth consecutive participation for Palestinian clubs.
It was announced yesterday that Shabab Al-Khalil would play Al-Suwaiq in a two legged play-off for a spot in the group stages.
Those matches are slated for Monday, January 30th and Tuesday, February 7th.
Shabab Al-Dhahrieh were the maiden AFC Cup participant losing on penalties in 2013 to Kyrgyz side Aly Osh in a preliminary playoff.
The following year, Taraji Wadi Al-Nes were granted direct access to the competition while Hilal Al-Quds entered in the playoff stage. Once again, a penalty shootout following a scoreless draw undid a Palestinian team and Syria’s Al-Jaish progressed to the group stages.
Taraji Wadi Al-Nes fared better going undefeated at home (5/9 points) including a famous scalp of Iraq’s Al-Shorta.
2016 saw two Palestinian sides participate in the group stage for the first time and while Ahli Al-Khaleel and Shabab Al-Dhahrieh’s campaigns were mired by the AFC’s inability to hold clubs who refused to travel to Palestine to task.
To make matters worse, eleven members of Shabab Al-Dhahrieh’s squad were denied entry to Lebanon to play Syrian side Al-Wahda. For its part, the AFC administratively awarded both matches to Shabab Al-Dhahrieh but only after Al-Wahda had advanced to the Round of 16 and lost 4-0 to Al-Ahed of Lebanon.
Should Shabab Al-Khalil progress they will be placed in Group A alongside Iraqi League Champions Al-Zawraa, Jordanian Cup Champions Al-Ahli, and Syrian Champions Al-Jaish.
A rejig of the competition’s format means that only four teams will progress from the three Western groups (as opposed to six).