Wednesday, May 14, 2008


An ASEAN Champions League?

With KTB and Nam Dinh being the whipping boys of the Asian Champions League is the time right for a rethink? Should South East Asian nations qualify for Asia's premier tournament when it seems patently clear they are not good enough?

While Singapore and Malaysian clubs can look forward to going into the hat for the next round of the AFC Cup, the Thais and Vietnamese will be licking their wounds. Against clubs from Australia, Japan, South Korea and China the days of BEC Tero and Thai Farmers Bank reaching the final seem never to be repeated.

Nam Dinh and Bin Duong, Vietnam's finest, have one point between them from their five games. KTB have some points but then they have played Nam Dinh and somehow managed to score nine against them at home.

Chonburi alone are doing ASEAN proud in a group that pits them against Gamba Osaka, Melbourne Victory and Chunnam Dragons.

With the AFC looking to raise the bar for admission to the Champions League it does seem that both Thailand and Vietnam will not be appearing in the near future as the organisers insist on more professional leagues and managements coupled with better infrastructure.

With these new benchmarks perhaps only clubs from Singapore can look forward to continental competition in the future. It is feasible that Indonesia could squeeze in alongside Malaysia but perhaps both are unlikely.

There is no doubt the likes of Persik benefited last season from competing in the Champions League alongside Sydney and Shanghai but can the same be said of SAF and Kedah playing teams from the Maldives and Hong Kong? You could imagine SAF beating Nam Dinh so why are they in a 'lower' competition?

Perhaps ASEAN needs to get involved in pushing football in the region with a united voice? Unlikely I know given the role politics plays in sports and how countries will always put their own interests first. Interests which have produced the likes of KTB and Nam Dinh.

Before the AFC turns round and says sorry guys, you just ain't good enough perhaps ASEAN should grab the bull by the horns and offer a solution that would esure the best teams in the region compete at the highest level while the rest can tackle the minnows.

The Singapore Cup is almost a surrogate ASEAN Cup with four teams from Thailand, Brunei and Cambodia competing alongside the SLeague sides.

Why not have an ASEAN Champions League run along similar lines but featuring the top teams from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand as well as one from Cambodia and Brunei.

Two groups of five, the top two in each group play off and the winners go into the ACL, the runners up in the AFC Cup.

Yes it means more games but hey! Welcome to success!

Easy, innit?

Not really! Countries in this region are very prickly about slights, intended or not, against their national honour and it is fanciful for someone like Vietnam to voluntarily concede their ACL places to an ASEAN 'brother'.

There are other hurdles to be cleared like setting aside time in congested, and overlapping seasons. Also perhaps domestic discontent as 'big' clubs ignore the local scene; but for ASEAN clubs to make a showing each and every year it needs concerted action like this.

It also needs money and that, as they say, is another story!

Totally agree with that. I think it could be done, but only possibly with the help of AFC to push it.

I agree that no one wants to give up their spot in the ACL, but surely Vietnamese clubs would benefit by playing the regions best and then possibly developing to handle themselves in the ACL or drop into the AFC Cup where they could more than handle themselves.

Everyone just needs to see the future benefit, but like you say it's all me, me, me rather than help the region in general
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