Looking to join United City FC in the AFC Champions League group stages, Philippines Football League side Kaya FC-Iloilo battle Chinese side Shanghai Port FC in the play-off match tonight, 23 June 2021 at the Pathum Thani Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.
Kaya was originally scheduled to face Brisbane Roar of Australia in the preliminary round, but due to the withdrawal of Australian clubs from the competition, the Iloilo side is now one step closer towards making the group stage with Shanghai Port serving as the final hurdle.
The match will also be the first fixture for newly appointed head coach Graham Harvey. In preparation for the knockout tie, Kaya has also strengthened its squad with the acquisition of Ghanian forward Patrick Asare, Japanese midfielder Ryo Fujii, midfielder Fitch Arboleda, and forwards Jesus Melliza and Javier Gayoso.
“We’re one big family, one big club,” said Harvey during the pre-match press conference. “I’ve been delighted by how the boys have responded to me as a coach. Coach Yu Hoshide as well has done an excellent job to prepare the boys for this stage. I think we’re in a good spot to perform to the best of our abilities.”
The team arrived in Bangkok last Sunday under the strict health and safety protocols implemented by both AFC and the Football Association of Thailand (FAT).
“This is our first opportunity to play in the Champions League, and we want to entertain our fans,” added Harvey. “We’re here to entertain, we’re here to make sure we give our very best. For us, it’s about making sure that we do our fans justice. As a club, we’ve been in existence for 25 years, and this is our first opportunity on this stage to show Asia what we can do.”
A win for Kaya will see the club enter the competition in Group F alongside defending AFC Champions League winners Ulsan Hyundai, Thai League 1 champions BG Pathum United, and V.League 1 winners Viettel FC. A loss will see the club compete in the AFC Cup 2021.
“(The match against Shanghai Port) presents a big challenge for us,” said captain Jovin Bedic. “But we are all ready to play. We’re very hungry for that win.”
Photos from Kaya FC-Iloilo