Erchim FC: Mongolia's Football Powerhouse

Erchim Ground

The nine-time champions of Mongolia are owned by Thermal Power Plant No. 4, which provides Ulan Bator with its power and heat.

Erchim Ground

In the shadow of the cooling towers of Thermal Power Plant No. 4, Mongolia's dominant football force Erchim FC are preparing for their big test, the AFC Cup.

While the other teams in the Mongolian Premier League share the Mongolian Football Federation Stadium, Erchim have their own ground, which must rate amongst the most striking in the world. Off to one side is Power Plant No. 4, the facility that provides the vast majority of Ulan Bator's power, to the other you can see the beautiful mountains that surround Mongolia's capital.

Reigning champions Erchim have won Mongolia's top league nine times and currently lead the pack once more with 2014 champions Khoromkhon hot on their heels, but this year they are hoping to do Mongolia proud on the international stage at the AFC Cup (Asia's equivalent of the Europa League as Mongolia has no spot in the Asian Champions League).

While past results in Asian competitions haven't been the best, Mongolian football is on a high after the national team, rated 202nd in the world, recorded a much-needed and resounding 8-0 victory against the Northern Mariana Islands in the recent East Asian Cup qualification tournament in Guam.

Erchim Squad

It was a team largely composed of Erchim players and led by Erchim's young coach Tulga Zorigt, aided by English assistant boss Shadab Iftikhar. Iftikhar, a 26-year-old UEFA A License coach, is expected to link up with Tulga again for the AFC Cup and his renowned tactical expertise could help Erchim upset the odds.

Coach Tulga visited Barnet FC along with Erchim striker Soyol-Erdene Gal-Erdene and spent the month of January in North London learning from the coaches at The Hive. Known as a dynamic young coach determined to raise the profile of Mongolian football, this is Tulga's greatest opportunity to make his mark.

In a country where Premier League football is king but domestic football has often been overlooked, there's at last a feeling that Mongolian football is on the up. Erchim will be determined to prove that when they line up for their AFC Cup clashes with Cambodia's Nagaworld FC and Three Star Club of Nepal.

Can Erchim progress in the AFC Cup this time around? One thing is for certain: history has shown that you underestimate Mongolia at your peril...

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