When Johor Darul Ta’zim lifted last season’s AFC Cup in Tajikistan, it was almost an anomaly in the brief history of the competition.
The domination of west Asian clubs had been so overwhelming over the previous 11 years that Johor looked like gate-crashers, who hadn’t read the script correctly.
And in some ways that was correct, give that JDT were only in the final because the suspension of the Kuwaiti FA lead to the elimination of Al-Qadsia and Al-Kuwait, both who had substantial leads from the semifinal first legs.
Nevertheless, JDT won and their name will be etched on the trophy for ever.
This year it is Bengaluru FC’s turn to represent east Asian football, and have a shot at lifting the trophy for East Asia for the second season on the spin.
Obviously the change in format this year that separates East and West zone teams until the final is a help, as it guarantees an East Asian side a spot in the final each year.
Pitting the best side in the East and West zones against each other in the final certainly presents the East with a better chance of claiming the top prize each year.
But is the balance of power changing?
It is still far too early to say, but if Bengaluru come out on top this year then it could signal the start of something.
— Bengaluru FC (@bengalurufc) November 4, 2016
Prior to last season, the five countries where the winners had emerged from were Kuwait, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain and Uzbekistan.
Kuwait have been the most successful nation in the tournament, with Al-Kuwait three time winners.
But perhaps Johor’s success has opened the flood-gates for east Asian sides and could inspire others, helping the East to enjoy a similar period of dominance.
Certainly, the attention which will follow Bengaluru’s bid for glory this weekend will only be beneficial to the Indian clubs looking to follow in their footsteps.
Ultimately, greater competition throughout the Continent will only benefit the tournament as a whole. It should be decided by the best teams throughout the whole of Asia, not just one half.
2004 – Al Jaish
2005 – Al-Faisaly
2006 – Al-Faisaly
2007 – Shabab Al-Ordon
2008 – Al-Muharraq
2009 – Al-Kuwait
2010 – Al-Ittihad
2011 – FC Nasaf
2012 – Al-Kuwait
2013 – Al-Kuwait
2014 – Al-Qadsia
2015 – Johor Darul Ta’zim
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