AFC Champions League

Tianjin Quanjian forced to move AFC Champions League home game 2,000km away to Macau

Northern city is hosting annual World Economic Forum on September 18, a date that marks a flashpoint in China-Japan relations

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2018, 12:58pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2018, 10:33pm

The AFC Champions League confirmed that the upcoming quarter final second leg between China’s Tianjin Quanjian and Japan’s Kashima Antlers will take place in Macau.

The Macau Olympic Stadium will host the teams on September 18, something that was also confirmed by the Chinese Super League club on their official Sina Weibo account.

The club remained positive despite being disappointed they could not play the game in Tianjin, referring to Macau as “home” because it is part of China, despite being over 1,900 kilometres from the northern Chinese city.

While no reasons have been given, the annual World Economic Forum will be taking place in Tianjin from September 18 to 20 and with the Chinese club having failed to find an alternative stadium in a nearby city, the game has been moved to a “neutral venue” in accordance with the AFC’s rules,.

Users on both English-language and Chinese social media referenced that the game will be played on the date that commemorates the Mukden Incident.

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On September 18, 1931, Japanese forces caused an explosion close to a railway near modern-day Shenyang before pinning the blame on Chinese dissidents.

The Japanese Imperial Army then staged a full-scale invasion of northeastern China, then known as Manchuria.

The date lives in infamy in China and, given the visiting team are Japanese and the proximity of Tianjin to the former Manchuria, some have cited “security concerns”.

Kashima is just over 2,000 kilometres from Tianjin, meaning the Macau switch is as disruptive as the away leg for the “hosts”.

If it is a case of poor planning from the club, it would fit with the away leg in Japan.

The team and staff missed their original flight for the first leg in Japan two weeks ago because of traffic on the Tianjin-Beijing expressway, delaying their arrival by a day.

This is the club’s debut campaign in Asia’s premier club competition.

They qualified on the last day of the 2017 season by beating champions Guangzhou Evergrande to claim third spot on the CSL table.

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In the off season the Tianjin club lost manager Fabio Cannavaro to Guangzhou Evergrande and replaced him with Paulo Sousa.

There have been further changes to the playing squad in the summer with Belgium international midfielder Axel Witsel leaving for Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga and France striker Anthony Modeste involved in a contract dispute with the club.

Former Brazil star Alexandre Pato is the most high profile foreigner at the club, which sits in eighth place on the standings.

Tianjin Quanjian need to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit to progress to the next round.

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The winners will face Suwon Bluewings or Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, both of the South Korean K-League, in the regional final.

The winner of that takes on the winner of the west zone for the trophy, which has twice been won by Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande in the last decade.