Saturday, May 19, 2007


FA Cup Final, Champions League ... Asian Cup?

English football no doubt is feeling bloody chuffed with itself at the moment. Three teams reached the Champions League semis, Manchester United with the 3 musketeers, Ronaldo, Rooney and Ryan Giggs, have swept all before them domestically and even become popular again, at the expensive of Chelsea's deep pockets. Ousted politicians have been sniffing round habitual Snow Whites Manchester City, perhaps Thaksin's millions will mean City can finally go to the ball. The coffers are bursting at the seams and papers daily are linking anybody with everybody though I note no club has yet been linked with the spectacularly unsuccessful Frank Seator. Hell, even a nonsense tour of Malaysia has got their PM all hot and bothered and sod the consequences with their own game.

Yep, domestic English football with its Russian money, Spanish managers and French artists is the envy of the world and the world only has eyes for the Big 4. Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and newbies Chelsea.

This week I picked up my copy of Bola, the local sports tabloid. This special edition was wrapped in a colour poster featuring this weekend's Cup Final protaganists. The pages are filled with info about the New Wembley. And the old Wembley. And WAGS ffs!

Tucked away on an 8 page insert, almost as an afterthought, is the local football. We're in the middle of the 1st round of the Copa Indonesia, the Asian Cup, majestically spread across 4 countries, kicks off in 7 weeks but the world, at least as decided by sports editors, are more interested in the antics of Messers Cole and Rooney's other halfs.

The Asian Cup is I take it the showpiece of Asian football. A shop window for talents to show off their skills to scouts from where the money is. And indeed it has made headlines recently. But beyond that petty squabble there seems precious little being done to promote this gala event. I live in Jakarta and I promise you when I talk football with people and we move beyond the usual moronic Big 4 stuff not many are aware Jakarta is hosting some of the games. The few that do have no idea where to buy tickets; sorry but e-commerce hasn't caught on here yet. And Nike, who are providing Indonesia's playing kit have closed their flagship outlet in Plaza Senayen for renovation!

A few months back we were treated to the Champions League trophy doing a whistle stop tour of Asia. What if anything did the AFC learn from this? Many people like European football? People know zilch about Asian football? The Asian Champions League trophy would go on a similar tour? The Asian Cup likewise? They would be paraded round the moneyed malls of Asia to help promote these prestigious events to a football mad affluent class? Err, no, actually nothing seems to have been done beyond bleating that Manchester United threatened to steal their thunder and headlines.

Football can't sit back and say no one helps us when they are doing little to help themselves. Given a choice between watching Uzbekistan against Iran or Manchester United what are most people gooing to choose? The AFC needs to get out there and market this tournament in a professional manner, appealling to a new breed of supporter. Millions will watch it on TV but having row upon row of empty seats in cavernous stadiums will leave only negative impressions on fans, and potential fans here.

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