Wednesday, October 03, 2007


The best League in ASEAN??

Tuesday night means Top Corner, Star Sports' weekly show highlighting the game in South East Asia. Towards the end of the show the host Jien asked the resident football expert Paul Masefield what the best league was in ASEAN and after humming and haaing the one time Birmingham defender came up with Vietnam. His reasoning? Because they pay the highest salaries!

I thought little of it. It's a difficult question to answer and one best avoided. However, others disagreed and my in box this morning was littered with irate fans from Indonesia asking if Masefield had lost his marbles!

Maybe he has, I have no idea never having met him but it's worth bearing in mind Paul was a professional footballer. Like non working housewives and oligarchs fiscal discipline is an alien subject; faced with a problem their solution is to throw money at it. How many times have you heard a player from a struggling team interviewed and say we need to spend money to get out of this situation? To suggest one league is better than another purely because they pay higher salaries is nonsense of course.

To extend that analogy England has the best league in the world, Chelsea are the best team in England and the guy who lives at Number 39 is a better man than me 'cos he has paved his front lawn to park his cars.

Money cheapens the debate and raises more questions than it answers. Football in Asia isn't the most transparent of sports, money comes from a variety of sources and ethics is something to be studied at school but ditched in the big wide world.

Until we get a regular ASEAN Club competition featuring the Champions from each league then we will never know whether one league is better than another. Even then it won't be clear. If indeed relvant to anything. Does it matter?

Indonesian football is an encompassing experience played on crummy pitches in crummy stadiums. Singapore football is a dull experience played on good pitches. Thai football is like spending the day at the Stock Exchange. Vietnam? Dunno! And the VFF website is down!

To disappoint the Indonesian fans who contacted me in the wakeof last night's show, I'm not going to say the Indonesian league is the best. It isn't and frankly I don't care which league is.

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