Everything you need to know about the state of football in Asia

Chappuis: Thailand's regional rivals have caught up with us (0:54)

Charyl Chappuis says Thailand cannot rest on past success and must realise their AFC rivals are on the rise. (0:54)

With months of waiting behind them, football fans across Asia have something to cheer about as the sport returns to the continent after the coronavirus pandemic suspended play throughout the region.

The Asian Football Confederation announced its plans for the return of the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup in September. While some leagues in the continent now face a race to complete their seasons, others were halted before a single ball was kicked.

- AFC Champions League and AFC Cup to restart in September
- JDT seek seventh straight league title when season resumes

Here is the state of play across some of the biggest leagues in Asia.


Tampines Rovers were leading the table with nine points from four matches when the Singapore Premier League was suspended on March 24. SPL clubs have now been given the green light to return to training after the city-state entered Phase 2 of reopening.

The eight clubs based in Singapore will start low-intensity training in groups of no more than five players. Defending champions Brunei DPMM are training in Brunei Darussalam. A season restart date has yet to be announced.


Thai League 1 stopped play on March 1 with Bangkok United and Ratchaburi Mitr Phol leading the pack with a perfect record after four matchdays. The Football Association of Thailand (FAT) is targeting a return on Sept. 2 and running until May 15, 2021. These new dates might be something Thai fans will have to get used to in the long run as it is a departure from the league's traditional scheduled and mirrors the European football calendar.

The top four teams after the first half of the season will qualify for the 2021 AFC Champions League.


The 2020 Malaysia Super League season came to a halt on March 13 after four rounds. But after an interval of more than five months, the Malaysian top flight returned on August 28 and is expected to run until October 10.

The home-and-away format of the Super League and second-tier Premier League has been dropped for a single-match schedule. Winners will be decided after 11 rounds.

Defending champions Johor Darul Ta'zim are looking to become the most successful club in Malaysian football history by winning their seventh title.


V.League 1 was the first to return to action in Southeast Asia on June 5 with a revised schedule. Vietnam, like Malaysia, had done away with the home-and-away format. However, the league was forced to suspend indefinitely the competition on July 26 after local transmission of coronavirus was reported in the country for the first time after more than three months. No details are known for another restart date.


Indonesian football fans will have to wait until October to see their favourite clubs back in action. Liga 1 will pick up from the fourth round with Persib Bandung leading the pack with three wins from as many matches while defending champions Bali United sit one point behind. All league ties are expected to be held around the island of Java with relegation scrapped for the season.


The 2020 Philippines Football League (PFL) season was scheduled to begin on March 21, but was rescheduled and later suspended indefinitely by the Philippine Football Federation (PFF). However, the fourth edition of the PFL is inching towards a return after a government go-ahead.

Philippines' Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases on July 3 approved PFF's 27-page document detailing its plans for the gradual return of professional football in the country. The PFF-owned training center in Carmona, Cavite has been designated as a practice venue for the PFL clubs. The league will be held in a single round-robin format.


The 2020 Cambodian League was suspended on March 15 after five weeks of matches and returned on July 4. Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC are the defending champions of the league but will face tough competition from the likes of Phnom Penh Crown FC and Boeung Ket Angkor FC in their bid to retain the title.


After a four-month hiatus, top-flight football returned to Japan on July 4 with nine matches that were held without fans in attendance. J1 League started allowing spectators into the stadiums on July 10 but has been limited to 5,000 or 50 percent of the capacity -- whichever number is smaller.

As many as 2,400 players, club staff and match officials involved with the league are being tested for COVID-19 at regular intervals.


At one point, it was looking like the 2020 Chinese Super League season was unlikely to happen. But CSL became the second major sports league to resume in China, after the Chinese Basketball Association season, when the first set of matches were played on July 25.

The league will be split into two groups -- one being played in the city of Dalian and the other in Suzhou, near Shanghai. Teams were allowed to sign new players until July 29. Fabio Cannavaro's Guangzhou Evergrande will be looking to secure a ninth title in 10 years once the season resumes.

South Korea

Though initially forced to postpone its February 29 start, K League 1 became the first league in East Asia to kick off after the outbreak when matches were played without spectators on May 8.

South Korea's government was planning on allowing fans to attend the professional sports starting this month under strict preventive measures, but that suffered a temporary setback due to a spike in the coronavirus cases in the country during recent weeks.


Australian top-flight A-League resumed on July 17 and will see 27 league ties packed into 34 days. Matches are concentrated around five venues in the state of New South Wales and one in Brisbane. The regular season was nearing its end with most teams having played 20 of the 26 matches of the regular season when the pandemic forced the stoppage. Football Federation Australia are targeting an Aug. 30 date for the 2019-20 Grand Final.

United Arab Emirates

The 2019-20 Arabian Gulf League season has been declared void and ended with no champions as Al Ahli was leading the table with seven rounds to play. They, along with Sharjah FC, Al Wahda FC and Al Ain FC will play in the 2021 AFC Champions League because of their 2018-19 league finishes.

Fans in the United Arab Emirates can look forward to a new football season which will kick off on Sept. 3 with the Arabian Gulf Cup followed by the league on Sept. 9.

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Premier League is set to resume in mid-September after the government on Sept. 2 allowed the resumption of training sessions at four venues. The league, which has been shut down since March 18, will look to restart after training for two weeks.

The remainder of the 2019-20 season will only be contested by six teams after four clubs -- Pegasus, Rangers, Tai Po and Yuen Long -- withdrew due to the pandemic, with their previous results expunged from the campaign.


The 2019-20 season of the Qatar Stars League resumed on July 24 and picked up from its 18th matchday. However, the league has had a rocky start with FC Barcelona legend and current Al Sadd head coach Xavi Hernandez testing positive for coronavirus just before the restart.

Ahead of the season restart, players and staff of the 12 QSL clubs were tested for the virus and checked into a team hotel. The clubs started training on June 10 and a second batch of coronavirus tests were conducted later that month.

Matches are taking place at three venues -- the brand-new Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah and Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.

AFC Champions League & AFC Cup

The Asian Football Confederation confirmed that the Champions League's West Zone action will resume on Sept. 14, while the East Zone will restart on Oct. 16. The AFC Cup will get back underway in the ASEAN Zone on Sept. 23, before the West, Central, South and East Zones resume play on Oct. 20.

While the group and knock-out stage matches in the West Zone of ACL will be held at a centralised venue in Qatar, Malaysia is to host matches in Group G and H from Oct. 17 to November 1.

Meanwhile, Vietnam has been announced as the centralised venue for the AFC Cup's Group F and G, while Maldives will host Group E in the South Zone.

AFF Suzuki Cup

There was optimism that the AFF Suzuki Cup -- Southeast Asia's premier tournament featuring national teams -- would be able to take place according to the original November to December schedule.

However, the ASEAN Football Federation confirmed on July 30 that the tournament will now be postponed to 2021, citing "the rapidly deteriorating coronavirus situation" as the basis of their decision.

2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Joint-Qualifiers

The AFC announced on August 12 a joint decision with FIFA to postpone all World Cup qualifiers originally scheduled for this year to 2021. Four rounds of matches, which also double up as qualifiers for the AFC Asian Cup in 2023, were originally meant to be played in October and November but have been rescheduled "with the aim of protecting the health and safety of all participants."