Soccer-Tiny Maldives land AFC Challenge Cup

SINGAPORE Wed Nov 28, 2012 8:39am GMT

SINGAPORE Nov 28 (Reuters) - Asia's emerging soccer nations will contest the next AFC Challenge Cup in the Maldives, the continent's soccer body said on Wednesday, but North Korea will not defend their title.

The island nation of the Maldives, Asia's smallest, was awarded the hosting rights for the 2014 edition of the eight-team finals by the Asian Football Confederation's competitions committee, meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

That decision must be ratified by the AFC's executive committee.

The Challenge Cup was launched in 2006 when Tajikistan won the event hosted by Bangladesh. India, playing at home, won the second edition with North Korea winning in 2010 and 2012.

The tournament was created in order that low-ranked Asian teams might compete in a continental competition, and potentially discover new talent on a competitive stage.

However in each edition so far, teams from the AFC's "developed associations" and "developing associations" have been admitted - and to date no team from an "emerging association" has won the event.

Twice winners and holders North Korea, categorised by the AFC as a top-tier developed association, did not enter the 2014 contest. The AFC competition committee on Wednesday approved their exclusion from future Challenge Cups.

Hosts Maldives - in the middle tier of development - have an automatic qualification place.

The winners of the March 8-23 tournament will qualify for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, to be held in Australia. (Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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