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Established in 1967, the AFC Champions League is the biggest club football competition in Asia.

Called the Asian Club Championship prior to the 2002-03 season, the AFC Champions League comprises league champions and cup winners of Asian Football Federation’s member associations. 

The AFC Champions League starts in January-February every year, with the final scheduled in November.

Before 2002, only winners of the national leagues and the reigning champions of the competition were allowed to take part in it. However, the rule was changed in 2002 to allow national cup champions to participate in the continental showpiece.

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal are the reigning champions of the AFC Champions League, having beaten Pohang Steelers 2-0 in the final of the 2021 edition. Interestingly, Al-Hilal have reached the AFC Champions League final eight times - the most by any club in the competition.

Meanwhile, Thai Farmers Bank, Pohang Steelers, Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Al-Ittihad are the four clubs that have managed to defend their AFC Champions League title.

Al-Ahli, FC Seoul and Persepolis are the only three clubs that have reached the AFC Champions League finals more than once but have failed to lift the trophy.

Since the AFC Champions League started in 1967, there have been 24 different winners.

South Korean clubs have clinched the title on 12 occasions while Japanese outfits have won the title seven times. Saudi Arabia-based clubs are third on the list with six trophies.

Who won the first AFC Champions League?

Israeli football club Hapoel Tel Aviv were the inaugural champions of AFC Champions League, having defeated Malaysia’s Selangor 2-1 in the final in 1967.

Who has won the most AFC Champions League titles?

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal are the most decorated team in the AFC Champions League, having won the title four times. Al-Hilal lifted the trophy in 1991, 2000, 2019 and 2021.

AFC Champions League winners list

Year Winner Runner-up
1967 Hapoel Tel Aviv Selangor
1969 Maccabi Tel Aviv Yangzee FC
1970 Taj Tehran Hapoel Tel Aviv
1971 Maccabi Tel Aviv Aliyat Al-Shorta
1972 Cancelled
1985-86 Daewoo Royals Al-Ahli
1986 Furukawa Electric Al-Hilal
1987 Yomiuri FC Al-Hilal
1988-89 Al-Sadd Al-Rasheed
1989-90 Liaoning Nissan Yokohama FC
1990-91 Esteghlal Liaoning
1991 Al-Hilal Esteghlal
1992-93 PAS Tehran Al-Shabab
1993-94 Thai Farmers Bank Oman Club
1994-95 Thai Farmers Bank Al-Arabi
1995 Ilhwa Chunma Al-Nassr
1996-97 Pohang Steelers Cheonan Ilhwa Chunma 
1997-98 Pohang Steelers Dalian Wanda
1998-99 Jubilo Iwata Esteghlal
1999-00 Al-Hilal Jubilo Iwata
2000-01 Suwon Samsung Bluewings Jubilo Iwata
2001-02 Suwon Samsung Bluewings Anyang LG Cheetahs
2002-03 Al-Ain BEC Tero Sasana
2004 Al-Ittihad Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma 
2005 Al-Ittihad Al-Ain
2006 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Al-Karamah
2007 Urawa Red Diamonds Sepahan
2008 Gamba Osaka Adelaide United
2009 Pohang Steelers Al-Ittihad
2010 Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma  Zob Ahan
2011 Al-Sadd Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors
2012 Ulsan Hyundai Al-Ahli
2013 Guangzhou Evergrande FC Seoul
2014 Western Sydney Wanderers Al-Hilal
2015 Guangzhou Evergrande Al-Ahli
2016 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors Al-Ain
2017 Urawa Red Diamonds Al-Hilal
2018 Kashima Antlers Persepolis
2019 Al-Hilal Urawa Red Diamonds
2020 Ulsan Hyundai Persepolis
2021 Al-Hilal Pohang Steelers

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Featured photo: Fayez Nureldine / AFP


 

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