After 19 years, the Turkmen football club will again take part in the AFC Champions League. For the first time, "Akhal" will represent Turkmenistan in the upcoming main Asian club tournament. This became known after the team of the Main Directorate of "Turkmennebitonumleri"
the only one of all Turkmen clubs that was able to successfully pass licensing to participate in the AFC-2022 Champions League.
Last season, "Akhal" won the silver medals of the championship of Turkmenistan for the sixth time and for the first time in history reached the zonal final of the AFC Cup in Central Asia - the second most important club tournament on the Asian continent.
Akhal will debut in the Champions League from the group stage, in which 40 teams will take part, which will be divided into 10 groups of 4 participants each according to the draw.
The draw, during which the rivals of "Akhal" will be known, will take place on 17 January. Prior to this procedure, the Asian Football Confederation released the basket lineups. As a result, the vice-champion of Turkmenistan ended up in the third basket of the Western zone, along with the clubs Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan), Al-Vehdat (Jordan), Mumbai City (India) and Istiklol (Tajikistan), with which he definitely cannot will play in the group stage of the 2022 AFC Champions League.
The complete composition of the baskets in the Western Zone looks like this:
Pot 1: Al Sadd (Qatar), Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia), Foolad Khuzestan (Iran), Al Jazeera (UAE), Al Dhuhail (Qatar).
Pot 2: Al Faisali (Saudi Arabia), Sepahan (Iran), Shabab Al Ahli Dubai (UAE), Al Rayyan (Qatar), Al Shabab (Saudi Arabia).
Pot 3: Pakhtakor (Uzbekistan), Al-Vehdat (Jordan), Mumbai City (India), Istiklol (Tajikistan), Akhal (Turkmenistan).
Pot 4: Air Force (Iraq), winner of the pair Al Taawun (Saudi Arabia) - Al Jaish (Syria), winner of the pair Baniyas (UAE) - Nasaf (Uzbekistan), winner of the pair Sharjah (UAE) - Al-Zawraa (Iraq).
The group winners and the top 3 runners-up teams in both the Western and Eastern zones will qualify for the 1/8 finals.
The main Asian club trophy has been played since 1967. Until 1971, the tournament was called the Asian Club Championship. It was not carried out from 1972 to 1985. From 1986 to 2002, the tournament was called the Asian Champions Cup. In 2003, after the merger of the Asian Champions Cup and the Asian Cup Winners' Cup, the tournament acquired its current name.
The AFC Champions League is a prestigious tournament financially as well. So, earlier for a victory in the group stage, teams received 50 thousand US dollars, for a draw - 10 thousand US dollars, and for reaching the 1/8 finals - 100 thousand US dollars. Then the prize money only grew: each quarter-finalist received $ 150,000, the semi-finalists - $ 250,000, the finalist of the tournament - $ 2 million, and the winner of the AFC Champions League - $ 4 million.
The last time Turkmen clubs played in the AFC Champions League was in 2003. Then Ashgabat "Nisa" reached the quarterfinal group tournament, following which it could not break into the top four teams in Asia.