Bengaluru FC will play North Korea’s 4.25SC (April 25 Sports Club) in the AFC Cup inter-zone semi-finals this year. At the draw ceremony in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, Bengaluru FC were also awarded $100,000 (Rs.64.48 lakh approximately) for winning the south zone group of the competition being played under a different format this year. That group also included Mohun Bagan.
Bengaluru FC, who won the Federation Cup last month sealing a shot at the 2018 AFC Cup, Asia’s second-tier international club competition, will host the North Korean team on August 23. The return-leg will be played at the 1,14,000 capacity May Day Stadium in Pyongyang on September 13.
According to a media release issued by the club on Tuesday, 4.25 qualified to the zonal playoffs after winning the east zone group, which also had Kigwancha SC and Mongolian side Erchim SC. The 67-year-old club, run by the North Korean Army and appearing on the continental stage for the first time in 25 years, scored 14 goals in four matches in the three-team group, winning two and drawing two. Bengaluru FC scored seven in six matches in a four-team group.
The name of the club has been derived from the country’s military foundation day. Their forward Kim Yu-song is the highest scorer of the 2017 edition with nine goals.
“April 25 SC are a side we’ve got very little information abou,t so this will be challenge of a different kind. We’ve got a good two months to prepare for this fixture and that’s what we’ll do. We did well in this competition and it is our aim to go one better than last time and win the cup,” said Blues’ boss Albert Roca. In 2016, Bengaluru FC lost 0-1 to Iraq’s Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya in the final.
Should Bengaluru FC win this round, they will meet the winners of the tie being played between Tajikistan’s FC Istiklol Dushanbe and the ASEAN Zone tie winners between Singapore’s Home United or Philippines’ Ceres Negros.
This is the third successive season that Bengaluru FC, set up in 2013, have made it beyond the group stages of the AFC Cup.
This year, teams in the AFC Cup have been divided into five Asian zones — west, central, south, ASEN and east. The winners of the west zone will play the winners from the other four zones to be decided following an inter-zonal play-off.