REUTERS - Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta‘zim will take on Tajikistan outfit Istiklol in the final of the AFC Cup after their semi-final opponents were kicked out of the competition following Kuwait’s FIFA ban.
Defending champions Al-Qadsia, who beat JDT 3-1 in the first leg last month, and Al-Kuwait, who thumped Istiklol 4-0, were due to play the second legs away next week but FIFA banned the country on Friday for government interference in the local football association.
“Following the decision by FIFA to suspend the Kuwait Football Association and its members from all football activities, Kuwait SC and Qadsia SC are no longer eligible to compete in the AFC Cup semi-finals,” the Asian Football Confederation said in a short statement on Saturday.
The AFC did not mention what would happen to Kuwait, who are currently second in Group G of their joint 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup qualifying campaign and are scheduled to play again on Nov. 17 away in Myanmar.
The AFC Cup final will be held in the Tajikistan capital Dushanbe on Oct. 31 and will see a new name and nationality lift the trophy.
Kuwaiti clubs have dominated the second tier regional tournament of late, winning the last three editions and making the finals of the previous six.
Al-Kuwait’s three titles make them the most successful AFC Cup team in the tournament’s 12-year history. Their last title came in 2013 when they beat Al-Qadsia in the final.
Reporting by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O'Brien