Friday, December 09, 2016


Perth Glory Owner Hints At Asian Teams In ALeague

Hand on heart, how many Indonesians, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Thais have heard of Perth Glory? Central Coast Mariners? Melbourne City? Not too many I'd wager. Sorry to say this to my fair dinkum Aussie pals, one of whom was supporting Thailand last night at the Rajamangala Stadium as they defeated Myanmar 4-0 in the AFF Suzuki Cup semi final second leg, but my guess is there is little recognition of football down under in the region. 

Two Australian sides, Manly United and Bulleen Zebras
 competing in a pre season event
in Jakarta
The likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and even them upstarts from South West London may attract large crowds when they deign to visit the region but there is an awareness of English, and Italian, Spanish, German, football that goes back a generation or two. Names like Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Wayne Rooney are familiar to millions. Fans are used to shelling out big bucks on replica shirts so they can identify with their heroes from afar.

Without googling, is anyone familiar with Maximillian Beister, Milos Ninkovic or Nick Montgomery? Can we imagine these ALeague players encouraging fans to get down to the National Stadium in Singapore on large numbers?

If Perth Glory owner Tony Sage has his way it could happen in the future. It is all part of the ongoing debate as to whether the 10 team ALeague should expand. Sage thinks an expansion into South East Asia would be a win win suggesting a team in Singapore, KL or Jakarta could attract 50,000 fans plus of course a large TV audience. 

The timing for his suggestion is of course predicted by the expansion talks in Australia. However if the wise Sage was up to date over football in his backyard he would know there is ongoing debate over an ASEAN Super League which is attracting lukewarm support outside of Singapore. Given the apathy of an inter regional competition why would anyone be interested in a team playing in a league no one knows anything about?

The ALeague only started in 2004 with a bunch of franchises seeking to distance themselves from the ethnic roots of football that sustained clubs during the National Soccer League, when I lived in Australia, and before. I don't follow it but reports I see do suggest decent crowds against a backdrop of institutional paranoia over the round ball game by the more traditional Aussie sports that feature puffed out chests, tight shorts and odd shaped balls. That it needs to expand, the ALeague not the shorts, is for me indisputable. 

But parachuting themselves into South East Asia to attract more eyeballs on TV? Is that the right way to do things? Malaysians may be unhappy with the state of their football but would they get behind a Woy Woy Wanderers based in KL? Singapore fans don't even bother with their own slowly dying league. Would a Darwin Dynamoes raise any eyebrows? Would a LionsXII playing in the ALeague be a magnet for TV audiences? Or a team based in Jakarta or Bali?

Perhaps the wise one is only thinking aloud but there is a tinge of arrogance in the suggestion. Build a club and the fans will come, sod the local league? We will soon find out as Perth Glory are hoping to play a 'home' game in either Singapore or Malaysia as soon as next season.

The arguments against the notion are the arguments against the proposed ASEAN Super League. FAs have a duty to develop their own leagues within their own borders. For all its chaos Indonesian football doesn't need the ALeague and neither does Malaysia. An interesting talking point yes but ultimately if the ALeague wants to expand it needs to look closer to home.

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