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Brief History of the AFC Futsal Championship

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AFC Futsal Championship is Asia’s most important national championship on the continent. In 21 years since its inauguration, it has been held 15 times! Initially, tournament was held every year, but lately it embraced a biennial format with 16 best teams on the continent playing out for the most prestigious futsal trophy in Asia. Iran has been the most dominant side over the years, clinching this trophy an amazing 12 times. Japan is the only other champion, wining it three times. However, this competition is anything but dull and due to the development of futsal in many Asian countries, things could change even this year in Kuwait!

Birth of the Persian Futsal Dynasty

1999 AFC Futsal Championship – Malaysia

First ever championship of the Earth’s largest continent was held from 5 March to 10 March 1999 in Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Nine teams that were part of this tournament were drawn into two groups. Group A, which consisted of five nations, was home to Iran, South Korea, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan and Singapore. Group B saw matches between Kazakhstan, Japan, Uzbekistan and Malaysia. Interestingly from today's perspective, all teams played two matches in a day during the group stage! In addition, we could have witnessed some results that seem quite unrealistic to happen today. For example, Iran had the biggest win of the tournament (maybe ever?) topping Singapore 36-0! That's almost a whopping goal every minute. Thailand also won against Singapore 21-0, and Iran won with the same result against Kyrgyzstan. Iran's goal difference in the group? Unrealistic +72 (76:4). It is worth noting that 253 goals in total were scored on the tournament, meaning more than 12 per game. Without doubt, Iran was the best team in Asia and cruised to the trophy beating South Korea in the finals. This was their first and six more in-a-row will follow in the coming years as a Persian futsal dynasty has been born...

Champions: Iran

Runners-up: South Korea

Third place: Kazakhstan

Fourth place: Japan

Top scorers: Kazem Mohammadi (IRA), Reza Rezaei Kamal (IRA) – 18 goals

For detailed statistics of the 1999 AFC Futsal Championship click here!

 

2000 AFC Futsal Championship – Thailand

Second AFC Futsal Championship was held in one venue in Thailand’s capital of Bangkok from 5 May to 12 May. This one was also important because top three teams would eventually qualify for the 2000 FIFA Futsal World Cup in Guatemala. Every time an AFC Futsal Championship would coincide with FIFA Futsal World Cup, the tournament would also act as a qualifier for the World Cup. Teams that qualified for the Championship were the same as last year with the exception of Malaysia who were replaced by Macau, who were placed in Group A together with Iran, Japan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan, Thailand, South Korea and Singapore were drawn in Group B. Eventually, Iran won their second title in a row, wining comfortably 4-1 against Kazakhstan.

Champions: Iran

Runners-up: Kazakhstan

Third place: Thailand

Fourth place: Japan

Top scorer: Therdsak Chaiman (THA) – 11 goals

For detailed statistics of the 2000 AFC Futsal Championship click here!

 

2001 AFC Futsal Championship – Iran

The first AFC Futsal Championship that saw expansion in regard to the number of teams and groups. Tournament held in Tehran from 14 July to 20 July saw 14 national teams divided in three groups. Group A saw matches between hosts Iran, Palestine, Japan, Chinese Taipei and Singapore. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait, Tajikistan and Malaysia were drawn in Group B, while Thailand, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan and Iraq made up Group C. After 34 matches played in the tournament, Iran eventually won at home turf beating Uzbekistan with a nine-goal margin in the finals thus clinching their third continental title in a row.

Champions: Iran

Runners-up: Uzbekistan

Third place: South Korea

Fourth place: Japan

Top scorer: Vahid Shamsaei (IRA) – 31 goals

For detailed statistics of the 2001 AFC Futsal Championship click here!

 

2002 AFC Futsal Championship – Indonesia

No organizational changes were done to the 2002 AFC Futsal Championship which was hosted in Jakarta, Indonesia, but what was important is that prior to this tournament, Kazakhstan decided to move to UEFA competitions and were no longer part of the Asian Football Confederation. We did saw a number of debutants in the tournament, like Bahrain and Brunei which were drawn in Group A alongside Thailand, South Korea and Iraq. Iran, Uzbekistan, Malaysia and Chinese Taipei were drawn in Group B, while Japan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, hosts Indonesia and debutants China were drawn in Group C. Iran were once again very dominant against their opposition, easily wining against Japan in the finals 6-0. Interestingly, after failing in semi-finals on three last occasions, Japan finally made it to the last stage of the tournament.

Champions: Iran

Runners-up: Japan

Third place: Thailand

Fourth place: South Korea

Top scorer: Vahid Shamsaei (IRA) – 26 goals

Best player: Anucha Munjarern (THA)

For detailed statistics of the 2002 AFC Futsal Championship click here!

 

2003 AFC Futsal Championship – Iran

Just two years after the tournament in Iran, the best national teams of Asia returned once again, but this time the tournament was held in two different venues, Tehran and Karaj. Also, tournament expanded once again to include 16 teams divided in four groups of four teams. Japan, Kuwait, Palestine and Macau were drawn in Group A, South Korea, Chinese Taipei, debutants Hong Kong and Indonesia made Group B. Multi-champions Iran were drawn in Group C, together with Kyrgyzstan, debutants Lebanon and China. And for the first time, in Group D we saw matches between Thailand, Uzbekistan, Iraq and Malaysia. Iran once again cruised to the finals where they finally met some decent opposition. Japan made it to their second consecutive final, and despite losing 6-4 to the favored Iran, showed us a glimpse of a rivalry that will paint the tournament in editions to come.

Champions: Iran

Runners-up: Japan

Third place: Thailand

Fourth place: Kuwait

Top scorer: Vahid Shamsaei (IRA) – 24 goals

Best player: Vahid Shamsaei (IRA)

For detailed statistics of the 2003 AFC Futsal Championship click here!

 

2004 AFC Futsal Championship – Macau

Championship in Macau saw another small expansion regarding the number of teams. Two more teams were included, so 18 teams in total were in the Championship, including a number of debutants. Group A was home to Iran’s dominant team, Uzbekistan, debutants Cambodia, Indonesia and Hong Kong. Group B saw duels between Chinese Taipei, Kuwait, South Korea and debutants Maldives. Japan, Macau, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon and debutants Philippines were drawn in Group C, while Thailand, China, Malaysia and debutants Guam completed the draw in Group D. Although Japan played a very good tournament, they were stopped in the finals once again by a strong Iranian team who clinched their sixth-in-a-row title.

Champions: Iran

Runners-up: Japan

Third place: Thailand

Fourth place: Uzbekistan

Top scorer: Vahid Shamsaei (IRA) – 33 goals

Best player: Mohammad Reza Heidarian (IRA)

For detailed statistics of the 2004 AFC Futsal Championship click here!

 

2005 AFC Futsal Championship – Vietnam

2005 Championship in Vietnam was, to this date, the most massive tournament in regard of number of teams and matches. Tournament expanded to 24 national teams and 6 groups. Group A saw matches between Thailand, China, Maldives and Turkmenistan. Group B was home to Uzbekistan, Macau, Philippines and Palestine. Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon and debutants Bhutan were drawn in Group C. South Korea, Chinese Taipei, Tajikistan and debutants Qatar were drawn in Group D. Group E saw Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Guam. Finally, Group F was home to Kyrgyzstan, Iraq, Hong Kong and hosts and debutants Vietnam. Best 6 teams progressed on, with another 2 best second-placed teams. Rest of the teams were re-drawn in the second stage for a ‘best-of-the-rest’ competition which was eventually won by Lebanon, beating Iraq 6-2 in the finals. Best 8 teams from the first round were also re-drawn into 2 groups. Japan and Iran were put together in the same group in the second round and Japan won in their duel! In fact, it was the first time we could saw Iran struggling as they drew 3-3 against Thailand in the second-round group and only progressed to the knockout stage due to better goal difference. However, Iran eventually won the tournament, their 7th, beating Japan 2-0 in the finals, although much less comfortably than they’re used to.

Champions: Iran

Runners-up: Japan

Third place: Kyrgyzstan & Uzbekistan

Top scorer: Vahid Shamsaei (IRA) – 23 goals

Best player: Kenichiro Kogure (JAP)

For detailed statistic of the 2005 AFC Futsal Championship click here!

 

The Land of the Rising Futsal

2006 AFC Futsal Championship – Uzbekistan

One year after, the tournament format reverted to best 16 teams of the continent. A format that is still in place today. It is also very worth noting that it was the first tournament that saw Australia join the pack. Uzbekistan, China, Malaysia and Chinese Taipei were drawn in Group A. Group B saw Japan, Tajikistan, Hong Kong and Iraq. Kyrgyzstan, debutants Australia, Kuwait and Lebanon were drawn in Group C, while Iran, Thailand, Turkmenistan and Indonesia were drawn in Group D. Only the best team from each group progressed in the knock-out stage and immediately in the semi-finals Japan shocked Iran with a 5-1 victory! For the first time since the inauguration of the AFC Futsal Championship, Iran will not be playing in the finals. Japan made the best of this chance and with another 5-1 win over Uzbekistan clinched their first ever continental championship!

Champions: Japan

Runners-up: Uzbekistan

Third place: Iran

Fourth place: Kyrgyzstan

Top scorer: Vahid Shamsaei (IRA) – 16 goals

Best Player: Kenichiro Kogure

For detailed statistic of the 2006 AFC Futsal Championship click here!

 

2007 AFC Futsal Championship – Japan

Osaka and Amagasaki were two town hosts of the 2007 tournament that was appropriately held in Japan. No debutants qualified for the tournament and we saw hosts Japan meet Tajikistan, Hong Kong and Philippines in Group A. Uzbekistan, Thailand, Kuwait and Iraq were drawn in Group B, while Kyrgyzstan, Australia, South Korea and Turkmenistan were placed in group C. Finally, Iran, Lebanon, China and Malaysia completed Group D. Two best teams from each group progressed to the next stage. Asian rivals Iran and Japan met once again in the tournament finals, but this time Iran reclaimed the trophy and took it quite literally from Japan back to Iran due to the 4-1 win in front of more than 5000 spectators.

Champions: Iran

Runners-up: Japan

Third place: Uzbekistan

Fourth place: Kyrgyzstan

Top scorer: Kenichiro Kogure (JAP) – 12 goals

Best player: Vahid Shamsaei (IRA)

For detailed statistic of the 2007 AFC Futsal Championship click here!

 

2008 AFC Futsal Championship - Thailand

For the second time since the competition’s inauguration, best of the Asian continent returned to Thailand. Bangkok was the host city with two venues. It is also worth noting that this tournament was the last one that was held in succession year after year. Next one will be held in two years’ time. Hosts Thailand were drawn in Group A together with Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia and Iraq. Hopefuls Japan played in Group B with Australia and Chinese Taipei. Very good Uzbekistan side went on to play with Lebanon, Malaysia and South Korea in Group C, while strong Iranian side faced China, Tajikistan and Kuwait in Group D. The semi-final match between Japan and Iran was dubbed as the ‘final-before-final’ and Iran narrowly won 1-0 with a goal in the dying seconds of the first half. Later on, they beat hosts Thailand 4-0, who up to that point played a very good tournament. It was Iran’s 9th continental trophy.

Champions: Iran

Runners-up: Thailand

Third place: Japan

Fourth place: China

Top scorer: Vahid Shamsaei (IRA) – 13 goals

Best player: Vahid Shamsaei

For detailed statistic of the 2008 AFC Futsal Championship click here!

 

2010 AFC Futsal Championship – Uzbekistan

Four years after the first tournament in Uzbekistan, top Asian teams were back in the capital of Tashkent for another go. Hosts were drawn in Group A with Lebanon, Indonesia and Chinese Taipei. Iran, Australia, Tajikistan and Kuwait played each other in Group B. Group C saw clashes between Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam and South Korea. Finally, Japan, China, Iraq and Turkmenistan closed group D. Once again, two strongest teams on the continent faced each other in semi-finals, but this time Iranians were very dominant and with 7-0 victory cruised to the final where they beat hosts Uzbekistan 8-3 for their round 10th continental trophy.

Champions: Iran

Runners-up: Uzbekistan

Third place: Japan

Fourth place: China

Top scorer: Mohammad Taheri (IRA) – 13 goals

Best player: Mohammad Taheri (IRA)

For detailed statistic of the 2010 AFC Futsal Championship click here!

 

2012 AFC Futsal Championship – United Arab Emirates

For the first time, best Asian national teams were hosted by a country from Arabian Peninsula. United Arab Emirates, or more specifically Dubai was the host for the 2012 AFC Futsal Championship. The hosts UAE were drawn with Thailand, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan in Group A. Japan, Lebanon, Tajikistan and Chinese Taipei played out in Group B, while Iran, Australia, Qatar and South Korea completed Group C. Finally, Kuwait, Uzbekistan, China and Indonesia competed in Group D. A huge upset happened in the semi-finals when Thailand won against Iran 5-4 after extra time! This pushed them into final with Japan, who were too strong for them and who won in fashion 6-1, thus clinching their second continental trophy!

Champions: Japan

Runners-up: Thailand

Third place: Iran

Fourth place: Australia

Top scorer: Vahid Shamsaei (IRA) – 7 goals

Best Player: Rafael Henmi (JAP)

For detailed statistic of the 2012 AFC Futsal Championship click here!

 

2014 AFC Futsal Championship – Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City hosted the best Asian national teams for the second time in just 9 years. Kuwait, hosts Vietnam, Iraq and Tajikistan were drawn into Group A, while Group B hosted Iran, Australia, Indonesia and China. Thailand, Lebanon, Chinese Taipei and Malaysia filled up Group C, while Uzbekistan, defending champions Japan, Kyrgyzstan and South Korea were drawn in Group D. There were no major upsets in the tournament, except maybe Uzbekistan’s win over Japan in the group stage, but both teams progressed to the knock-out stage. However, the final match between Japan and Iran was an instant classic. After 40 minutes of the game the result was 1-1 and the match went to extra time. Both teams scored in extra time and it was down to the penalty shoot-out. Japanese players demonstrated cold nerves and despite loosing two times in the match (including extra-time), managed to score all of their penalties and lift the trophy for the third time!

Champions: Japan

Runners-up: Iran

Third place: Uzbekistan

Fourth place: Kuwait

Top scorer: Hossein Tayyebi – 15 goals

Best player: Ali Asghar Hassanzadeh

For detailed statistic of the 2014 AFC Futsal Championship click here!

 

2016 AFC Futsal Championship – Uzbekistan

Never before has a country hosted this tournament for three times, until Uzbekistan did it in 2016. Originally, the tournament was supposed to be held in Chinese Taipei, but due to the unprepared venues it was moved to Uzbekistan. Hosts Uzbekistan were drawn in Group A together with Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon and debutants Saudi Arabia. Iran, Iraq, China and debutants Jordan played out in Group B. Thailand, Vietnam, Chinese Taipei and Tajikistan comprised group C, while defending champions Japan were drawn in Group D alongside Australia, Qatar and Malaysia. Vietnam was responsible for a huge upset after they knocked out Japan in the quarter-final in a thriller of a match after penalties. Iran took the opportunity and in a very close final managed to come back and win 2-1 against Uzbekistan after trailing in the first part of the match for their 11th continental trophy.

Champions: Iran

Runners-up: Uzbekistan

Third place: Thailand

Fourth place: Vietnam

Top scorer: Suphawut Thueanklang (THA) – 14 goals

Best player: Ali Asghar Hassanzadeh

For detailed statistic of the 2016 AFC Futsal Championship click here!

2018 AFC Futsal Championship – Chinese Taipei

What was not possible two years ago, finally happened in 2018 as Taipei and New Taipei City hosted best Asian teams for the 15th AFC Futsal Championship. Hosts were drawn in Group A alongside Vietnam, Bahrain and Malaysia, ultimately missing out on the progression due to goal difference. Japan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and South Korea comprised Group B. Group C saw the likes of Iran, Iraq, China and debutants Myanmar, while Group D saw matches between Lebanon, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan and Jordan. Tournament itself did not offer any major upsets and all eyes were focused on the final match between Iran and Japan. This time, Iran kept their focus through the entire match and eventually won 4-0 to clinch their incredible 12th continental title.

Champions: Iran

Runners-up: Japan

Third place: Uzbekistan

Fourth place: Iraq

Top scorer: Hossein Tayyebi (IRA) – 14 goals

Best player: Ali Hassanzadeh (IRA)

For detailed statistic of the 2018 AFC Futsal Championship click here!

Asian Futsal has a Bright Future

2020 AFC Futsal Championship – Kuwait

The 16th edition of the AFC Futsal Championship was supposed to be held at the end of February in 2020, but unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 situation it was postponed. New dates set by AFC are 2-13 December 2020 and the tournament which was initially set to take place in Turkmenistan will take place in Kuwait!

Same as previous editions held on the same year as the FIFA Futsal World Cup, the tournament acts as the AFC qualifiers for the World Cup. Best five teams of the tournament will secure their place in Lithuania as AFC representatives.

Groups are already known and there are many good matches to look forward to. Turkmenistan will face Vietnam, Tajikistan and Oman in Group A. Group B will see matches between Japan, Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan and hosts Kuwait. Uzbekistan, Bahrain, China and Indonesia were drawn in Group C. Finally, defending Champions Iran are drawn in Group D with Thailand, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Those of you who have been reading carefully, might have noticed that this year’s tournament does not include two quite familiar teams. Both Australia and Iraq did not qualify for this edition of the Championship and will not get the chance to qualify to the FIFA Futsal World Cup.

As a sort of a build-up to this year’s AFC Futsal Championship in Kuwait we did an interview with Turkmenistan's Head Coach Robert Grdović, so be sure to check out his expectations and predictions of the upcoming tournament. Also, if you’re interested for more in-depth analysis of Asian futsal and predictions of the upcoming AFC Championship you must check our interview with Steve Harris – Asia’s no. 1 futsal fanatic!

Both our interviewees agree on one point – Asian futsal future seems very bright and Asia, as a huge market, has a unique opportunity to further develop futsal culture everywhere on the continent because new futsal nations are quickly emerging! It is quite possible that the Iranian and Japanese ‘duopoly’ will soon be broken.

The 2020 AFC Futsal Championship in Kuwait will be covered right here on FutsalFeed.com so make sure to subscribe for our newsletter to be the first to know when it happens!