Who Are The 2022 AFC Cup Host Cities?
This will be the second season in a row the competition takes place in a centralised format as the AFC continues to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The-AFC.com profiles each of the four host cities.
Group A – Seeb, Oman
The 2019-20 Oman Pro League season saw Al Seeb win their first-ever title, and as the following domestic season was cancelled, the team in yellow and green will be representing Oman in the 2022 AFC Cup.
Just a few kilometres to the north of Muscat, separated from the Omani capital by the Muscat International Airport, lies the city of Seeb, the Sultanate’s second most populated city, with a population of a quarter of a million people.
Al Seeb Stadium will play host to Group A which will feature the home team alongside three-time AFC Cup champions Kuwait SC, Lebanon’s Al Ansar and debutants Jebleh SC of Syria.
With an extended coastline facing the Gulf Oman, Al Seeb is a serene fishing village turned big city while retaining its traditional essence and ways of life. When you are not watching the thrilling games at the ground, there is a lot to experience. From horse riding, frankincense shops and streetside cafes selling coconut drinks and Karak tea to fish and local sweets markets, Al Seeb’s laid back culture has everything you can expect from a seaside town.
Group B – Kuwait City, Kuwait
Quarter-finalists in 2009, Al Arabi Club return to the AFC Cup as winners of the 2020-21 Kuwait Premier League. They host Group A at the Kuwait Sports Club Stadium in the capital Kuwait City, where they will compete against Bahraini champions Al Riffa SC, Palestinian champions Shabab Al Khalil and Oman’s Sultan Qaboos Cup winners Dhofar.
Home to the country’s biggest football clubs including three-time AFC Cup winners Kuwait SC and 2014 champions Al Qadsia, in addition to Al Arabi. Just as it dominates the football landscape, the capital dominates all aspects of Kuwait’s economy with over 70% of the nation’s population residing in Kuwait City.
Its location on the shores of the Kuwait Bay offers visitors an opportunity to enjoy an abundance of watersports, seaside restaurants and parks, while the country’s blend of local culture and past as one of the British empire’s most prosperous commercial centres means there are plenty of museums and traditional markets to visit, including Souq Al Mubarakiya market and the Dickson House Museum.
Kuwait can get hot during the day in summer, but luckily there is no shortage of modern shopping malls, galleries and movie theatres to indulge yourself in while you wait for AFC Cup action in the cooler evenings.
Group C – Manama, Bahrain
Just nine months after Muharraq Club celebrated lifting the 2021 AFC Cup trophy in Manama, beating FC Nasaf in the final, the city welcomes Group C of the 2022 edition, where local side East Riffa make their continental debut alongside Syrian champions Tishreen, Lebanese powerhouse Nejmeh SC and AFC perennials Hilal Alquds of Palestine.
The host ground, Muharraq Stadium, which hosted last year’s final, is located in Arad district on the northern island of Muharraq, which is also home to the Bahrain International Airport connected to downtown Manama by three bridges.
While it is Bahrain’s most populated city and one of the biggest financial and commercial centres of the region, Manama; Arabic for ‘Resting Place’, retains the charm and quiet of island life blended with buzzing nightlife and bustling markets nestled within its modern skyline featuring iconic skyscrapers such as the Bahrain World Trade Centre with its pioneering wind turbines.
When not taking in the football battles of the AFC Cup, you can revel in Manama’s narrow alleyways and famous Bahraini sweets await you in evenings while the island is dotted with beaches ranging from the secluded and untouched in the south of Bahrain to the modern and chic within its hotels and resorts, while waterparks offer another escape from the summer’s heat.
Group D – Kolkata, India
Also kicking off mid-May is the AFC Cup South Zone Group D where 2020-21 I-League champions Gokulam Kerala and their compatriots ATK Mohun Bagan host Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings and Maziya Sports and Recreation of the Maldives.
Salt Lake Stadium is home to ATK Mohun Bagan, and while Gokulam Kerala are the other ‘local team’ in the group, Bashundhara Kings will feel a lot more at home with the group’s host venue being just under 400 km from their hometown across the India-Bangladesh border, while Kozhikode in Kerala on the southwestern shores of India is four times further.
Capital of the Indian state of West Bengal, Kolkata is one of the nation’s most populous cities, with over 4.5 million residents. It is a hub of art, culture and literature with a proud history of being a former capital of India as well as a passion for sports, often being dubbed the capital of Indian football.
Colonial buildings such as the Victoria Memorial and Fort William are landmarks of Kolkata, while the ‘Mother House’ in the city is the final resting place of Mother Teresa. The Hooghly River is the main artery of the city, and you can enjoy unrivalled views of its skyline from a boat cruise or while crossing the iconic Howrah Bridge; the busiest cantilever bridge in the world.