Southeast Asian clubs have always found it tough, when it comes to the AFC Champions League. With the 2019 draw made, there’s hope that this year will be the year of ASEAN. But before, we take a look at each Southeast Asian country’s best finish in the continental competition so far.
For the purpose of this article, we have only selected clubs who have made it to the group stages. Furthermore, the period being considered is since after the formal establishment of the AFC Champions League (2002-present day)
#1 Thailand (BEC Tero Sasana)
Thailand is widely considered to be the strongest out of all the AFF nations. What gives credibility to the fact, is the national team’s performance in the Suzuki Cup, and the clubs’ performances in the continental competitions.
As a result, it is of little surprise that indeed it has been a Thai club, which has gone the farthest in the AFC Champions League; when BEC Tero Sasana (now Police Tero FC) made it all the way to the final in 2002.
They were put alongside Asian heavyweights Kashima Antlers, Daejeon Citizen, and Shanghai Shenhua in Group A of the 2002-03 AFC Champions League; a group which they would top with 7 points. Tero Sansana then faced Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor in the semis and defeated them 3-2 on aggregate, before losing to Al Ain in the two-legged Final (2-1).
#2 Singapore (Singapore Armed Forces FC)
Barring Thailand, no other Southeast Asian country has seen their club sides make it to the knockout stages. However, some have come pretty close.
One such team was Singapore’s Warriors FC (then Singapore Armed Forces FC), who finished third in their Group.
SAFFC were drawn with Suwon Samsung Bluewings, Gamba Osaka, and Henan Construction in Group G of the 2010 edition. Over the course of six games, they were defeated four times and finished third with 4 points on the board.
Their performance remains the best till date by any Singaporean club in AFC Champions League.
#3 Vietnam (Hoang Anh Gia Lai)
Vietnam football saw some great clubs rise during the early 2000s. As a result, the Southeast Asian nation had plenty of representation in the early editions of the AFC Cup.
Two of those clubs, Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC and Long An FC even manages to finish 2nd in their respective groups! However, on both occasions, the competition format only allowed the top club to advance.
Hoang Anh did better in terms of points won than Long An. They were grouped together with Dalian Shinde, Krung Thai Bank, and PSM Makassar in 2004 and finished 2nd with 7 points on the board.
On the other hand, Long An’s AFC Champions League campaign in 2006 was somewhat peculiar. They were drawn alongside Shanghai Shenhua, Persipura, and PEA FC. However, due to failing to register their players on time, both Persipura and PEA were disqualified from the competition. As a result, Long An played Shanghai twice, losing both times, and finishing 2nd with no points.
#4 Indonesia (Persik Kediri)
The final Southeast Asian country which has seen its local clubs make it to the group stages is Indonesia. However, none were able to progress to the knockout stages.
In fact, the best finish any Indonesian club has achieved in the AFC Champions League, is 3rd in their respective groups; a feat shared by four clubs.
Persik Kediri (2004, 2007), PSM Makassar (2005), Persebaya (2005), and Arema Malang (2007); all finished third. However, if we compare the four clubs, the best ever finish was achieved by Persik Kediri in 2007.
They were drawn alongside Urawa Red Diamonds, Sydney FC, and Shanghai Shenhua in Group E, in the 2007 edition. Persik started their campaign on the wrong foot, getting thrashed 3-0 in their opening match. However, two consecutive victories soon followed, somewhat stabilising their campaign. But two defeats and a draw in their final three matches sealed their fate.