Football: Tampines set for big league

Football: Tampines set for big league

Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League champions Tampines Rovers could fly the Singapore flag at Asia's top club competition next year.

The New Paper has learnt that the Stags have received provisional acceptance to represent Singapore in the 2014 edition of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL).

"AFC has confirmed that Tampines have met the minimum criteria in the AFC Club Licensing Regulations and will be considered for a play-off slot in the ACL next season," said an Football Association of Singapore (FAS) spokesperson.

"The AFC executive committee will sit on Tuesday to make the final decision on whether Singapore will be granted a slot to participate in the 2014 ACL. Further announcements will be made in due course."

If admitted, Tampines will enter at the play-off stage of the tourney, where a win will see them enter the main draw - the group stage - of the competition.

"We have not got anything official yet, but if we do get ACL participation, we have to relook everything," said Stags' chairman Teo Hock Seng.

"If we play, we have got to up the ante, do we have the money for that?"

Addressing rumours about Tampines' entry into the competition at the club's annual dinner last week, Teo mulled if the standard of football was a step too far for a Singapore club.

Tampines had a poor showing in the AFC Cup - a second-tier competition to the ACL - this season, being booted out at the group stage. Warriors FC, the Republic's other representative in the competition, suffered the same plight.

An entry into the ACL would presumably require a club to sign a roster of higher quality players, a move that would cause a bigger strain on their coffers.

The last Singapore side to participate in the tournament were Warriors FC (then known as SAFFC), in 2010. They were placed in a tough group that included Korean giants Suwon Bluewings, Japan's Gamba Osaka and Chinese side Henan Jianye, finishing with four points from six games.

In that same year, the FAS pulled out of the competition, with president Zainudin Nordin explaining that the S-League could not meet AFC's criterion of having a domestic league that does not admit foreign teams.

Currently only clubs from 10 countries that meet AFC requirements participate in the ACL. But earlier this year, the AFC decided to expand participation in the tournament.

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