In late January 2022 the Asian Football Confederation collated the big names and debuting participants of the AFC Champions League 2022 into a draw placing Sydney FC in Group H alongside Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Yokohama F. Marinos, and Hoang Anh Gia Lai FC. To get there, however, Filipino side Kaya FC-Iloilo stand in our way, and tonight marks just one week until our ACL Preliminary Round encounter.
KAYA’S RECENT FORM
While names like Jeonbuk and Yokohama circulate around the Champions League conversation as well-remembered opponents from previous years, Kaya FC is a side we have never faced. The club, based out of Iloilo City in the Philippines, nicknamed The Lions or “The Mighty Kaya”, most recently competed in and won the Copa Paulino Alcantara in their native country after their 2021 league season was cancelled due to the pandemic. Kaya enjoyed an intriguingly successful run into the Copa Final, brushing past group opponents Mendiola 1991 6-0 and eventual final opponents Azkals Development Team 2-0. They beat the latter 1-0 in the Final on November 19 last year.
DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL HONOURS
In the Philippines Football League’s previous five-year history, the Lions have finished runners-up in three of the last four seasons, with Melbourne City’s ACL group opponents United City FC taking out the Championship on all occasions. The Iloilo City club have also picked up the honours of UFL Cup and PFL Cup winners in 2015 and 2018 respectively.
In regard to previous continental competition appearances Kaya have partaken in the second-tier AFC Cup twice, getting as far as the Round of 16 in their 2016 attempts, and qualified for last year’s AFC Champions League after a cancelled preliminary round fixture with Brisbane Roar allowed them to take on Shanghai Port in the final stage of qualifying, where they picked up a 1-0 win to advance to the Group Stage. Their campaign was short-lived from there as they went on to finish bottom of their group without a point picked up in the process.
ONES TO WATCH
Soldiering on to this year’s edition of the Champions League, they have eyes on further progression into Asia’s top flight tournament. Since last May they have brought in a number of new signings, most notably including Ryde-born winger Jesse Curran. Curran, currently 25, spent two years with the Central Coast Mariners Academy before moving to Dundee in the Scottish Premiership between 2015 and 2019. He joins the likes of 18 year old Filipino starlet Sandro Reyes and returning Senegalese fan favourite Robert Lopez Mendy as new additions ready to stake their claim for Kaya domestically and internationally.
Sydney FC welcome Kaya FC-Iloilo to Jubilee Stadium next Tuesday 8 March at 7:30pm. Tickets are available here, and Sydney FC members can redeem 50% discounted tickets by using their Member Number.