Iraqi clubs to return to AFC Champions League after 10-year hiatus

SAFAWI RASID highlights vs Gyeongnam FC

It’s time to rejoice for Iraqi football fans as clubs from the country are finally set to return to the prestigious AFC Champions League from 2019.

Clubs from Iraq have been consigned to competing in the AFC Cup for the last 10 years, but they are set to make the jump up from next year, with 2017/18 Iraqi Premier League champions, Al Zawra’a gaining direct entry into the group stages of the competition.

On the other hand, Al Quwa-Al Jawiya, who recently lifted their third AFC Cup title, will feature in the playoff stages where they will have to overcome Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor as well as UAE’s Al-Nasr to join Zawra’a in the group stages.

Al Quwa-Al Jawiya qualified for the competition after defeating Altyn Asyr in the final of the AFC Cup, winning it for a third straight time. Al Zawra’a meanwhile, pipped Al Quwa to the 2017/18 IPL title by four points.

The last time an Iraqi club participated in the competition was way back in 2008, when both Erbil FC and Al Quwa-Al Jawiya featured. The tournament was eventually won by Japanese side Gamba Osaka.

A team from Iraq has never won the prestigious Asian club competition, with Al-Shorta and Al-Rasheed finishing runners-up on one occasion apiece.

The 2018 edition of the AFC Champions League was won by Kashima Antlers, who lifted the trophy for the first time in their history.