Thursday, February 26, 2009


Ditch the salary cap!

So Richard Bok will be leading his SAF into unchartered territory in the ACL. No more trips to the Gulf with their hugs and kisses between the match officials and the home side, Bok will be taking on the cream of Japan, South Korea and, err, China.

How well equipped are the Warriors, and indeed Indonesia’s Sriwijaya, to compete at the very highest level?

Squad sizes here are tiny. If a leading ASEAN team, a Sriwijaya or SAF, for example had an injury list like the Arsenal’s then they would have waved the white flag a long time ago.

Manchester United have three quality goalkeepers and a fourth out on loan. It is a maxim that every outfield position is covered these days in the biggest leagues. Japan and South Korea of course aren’t the biggest leagues but the chances are they are ahead of the best of South East Asia.

Sriwijaya have Claude Ngon A Djam and Keith Kayamba Gumbs up front but there is precious little to take their place should one of them be injured. The obvious choice would be Budi Sudarsono but he was brought in to start games, not be a squad member.

Indonesia is considering capping the salaries of its foreign players. Singapore already has salary caps. In Singapore’s case for good reason. With such a small talent pool to draw on the founding fathers, seeking a more equitable league, decided everyone should play on a level field. Ish.

But what has happened is two or three clubs have become bigger than the rest despite the limits. But they’re not big enough to compete Asia wide. You may have a first team squad or 14 or 15 players and that’s it. That will include a couple of ball boys who get a kick around when there are too many injuries. And that ain’t enough when you’re up against the best of the best.

Both Richard Bok and Steve Darby, two of the most successful coaches in Singapore recently, have called for salary caps to be lifted to allow their sides to compete at the highest level.

Throwing money at a problem is never the best solution. But by allowing clubs to decide what they can afford and allowing them to develop first team squads with strength in depth we would be giving them the opportunity to match the best Asian sides. Success in the ACL, given its increasingly high profile, may even have a trickle down effect to the local leagues which could well benefit more youngsters from a variety of backgrounds take up the game as the rewards increase.

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