Saturday, September 20, 2008


The AFC Cup

Here we sit between the first and second leg of the AFC Cup quarter finals and I can't help thinking what's the point?

Of course it would be great for football in this region if SAF or Home United could go on and win the trophy but I can't help thinking it would come at a price. And that price would be domestic success. Hi Rafa!

Copying UEFA and having two continent wide competitions doesn't add up. If UEFA still had three would the AFC follow suit?

I know the arguments about players and coaches pitting their wits against a different class of opposition but my argument is not football. Rather logistical.

Europe is small and there are airports everywhere. Practically every nation, apart maybe from Italy, has a hub but with the proliferation of budget airlines people can pretty much get from any place to any where within just a few hours.

That isn't the case in Asia. I would hate to think of the logistics of getting to Lebanon from Singapore. It's just daft having finely tuned athletes spending the better part of three days milling round airports and squashed inside planes. Arsene Wenger moans about going to the Ukraine, about 3 or 4 hours, on a specially chartered flight. How would he feel about taking a team from Singapore to Oman via god knows where? While at the same time his team is challenging for both the title and the cup!

Getting from east to west Asia isn't the piece of cake that European travel is. Nearly every long haul would include a stop off somewhere with endless dull hours waiting for a connection.

When the players get on the pitch the attendances are crap and the atmosphere nil. Would you spend the best part of a day travelling just to have a kick around in front of one man and his dog? It all seems pretty disheartening.

Perhaps there is time for a rethink.

OK at the moment the group stage is pretty regional but throwing India, Maldives and Hong Kong into the mix seems pretty desperate.

Why not have the three regions, South East Asia, South Asia and West Asia (is there a Central Asian grouping?), have their own regional tournament? Then perhaps the winner of these groups could meet somewhere neutral for a round robin with the winners joining the Champions League.

Lets' be honest. Fans here just aren't going to queue all night to see another team from the gulf called Al whatever, they don't have the interest or the knowledge of who they're playing.

The Champions League is building on its base thanks in part to live coverage of the games in the region. Does Asia have a second string competition because Europe does or does Asia stick with the ACL and promote more regional competitions which would drastically reduce the strain on the players and perhaps later on down the road seek to rebrand the AFC Cup when a better infrastructure is in place?

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