Kuala Lumpur: With the AFC Futsal Club Championship Vietnam 2017 kicking off on Thursday, the-AFC.com takes a look at the Group B teams who will be vying for the ultimate prize.
FOCUS ON GROUP B
NAFIT AL-WASAT (IRQ)
Since making their debut in the AFC Futsal Club Championship two years ago, NAFIT Al-Wasat have taken the competition by storm. Despite being seeded modestly in 2015, the Iraqi side defied all expectations by topping a tough group featuring Chonburi Blue Wave and this season’s fellow Group B opponents Al Rayyan SC of Qatar, before losing to eventual champions Tasisat Daryaei in the semi-finals.
NAFIT continued their fairytale in the last edition, surging to their first-ever final before losing agonisingly on penalties to Japan’s Nagoya Oceans after an enthralling 4-4 draw at the Bangkok Arena.
Talisman Farhad Tavakoli, who claimed the AFC Futsal Club Championship’s Most Valuable Player award in Thailand, will be the one to watch once again. Along with fellow Iranian Ghodrat Bahadori, NAFIT look set to mount another formidable challenge for the title.
AL RAYYAN SC (QAT)
Al Rayyan SC are aiming to win the AFC Futsal Club Championship for the first time after two previous campaigns ended in the semi-finals.
After capturing the inaugural Qatar Futsal League in 2006, Al Rayyan SC have not looked back, reinforcing their position as one of the best Qatari sides in Asian futsal. They will be eager to make amends though for missing the 2016 edition in Thailand, and will be making their fourth appearance at the AFC Futsal Club Championship in Vietnam. The West Asian side reached the semi-finals twice before, first in 2011 when they enjoyed home crowd support in Qatar and again a year later in Kuwait.
The Qataris, who have never failed to make it past the group stages in their three previous campaigns, will be keeping an eye on Group A as they seek to avenge their quarter-final defeat in 2015 at the hands of this year’s hosts Thai Son Nam FC.
VAMOS FC (IDN)
Vamos FC will create history in Vietnam as the first-ever Indonesian side to feature in the AFC Futsal Club Championship. Riau-based Harimau Rawa came closest to qualifying for the competition in 2011 but were eliminated in the play-off stage by Iraq’s Al-Karkh.
The Indonesians will be relying on Iranian import and former Giti Pasand player Ali Abedin, who was instrumental in steering them to the 2017 Pro Futsal League (PFL) Championship in May.
Since then, Vamos FC have reinforced their squad with the signing of Dutch international Said Bouzambou from Belgium’s premier division club FT Antwerp in their bid to make an impact in their maiden continental futsal competition.
DISI INVEST (TJK)
Similar to Vamos FC, DISI Invest will be competing in their inaugural AFC Futsal Club Championship, representing a first for Tajikistan. Since securing their spot in the finals of Asia’s premier futsal club competition, the Central Asian side have snapped up Iranian international and former Giti Pasand forward, Amin Nasrollah Zadeh.
The three-time Tajikistan Professional League champions have also bolstered their squad with Brazilian Jonatan Bruno Santiago who has an impressive resume, having previously played for Brasil Liga Futsal giants, SC Corinthians and Russian Super League’s Spartak Moscow.
On the home front, the Tajiks will be relying on the evergreen Khurshed Makhmudov for inspiration. The former Tajikistan international, who incidentally also featured in FC Istiklol’s unforgettable run to the AFC Cup 2015 final, will be appearing in his first-ever continental futsal championship since making the switch from football.