First raised on the Roar is an article from Paul Williams about Australia embracing Asia (a familiar theme). You are probably better of reading it straight from his blog (asiafootballfeast), it attracts less comments (for now) but it means you get the unedited version which can sometimes be vastly different than what the Roar print.
John Duerden has written a lot of similar pieces but Paul’s article stands out for me because he’s talking about the Asean zone. I must admit prior to this piece while I was aware of the Gulf Cup, East Asia games and the AFF Suzuki cup I didn’t realise that there was method to the madness with the AFC separated into four formal zones.
Australia is a fringe member politically of the Asean zone and I agree with Paul we should be aiming for full membership as it would give us an Asian powerbase politically. I don’t think other countries would want us to take a leadership position but if our presence is seen as beneficial to them then at least we won’t have to worry about getting kicked out of the AFC every time we elliminate a West Asian side from any competition and have someone in our corner regarding more ACL spots.
Integration into the Asean zone brings together two of my favourite A league ideas. Treating the National Youth League (NYL) as a quasi second division and promoting the A league overseas.
I would like too see each A league club linked too a particular Asean nation (and India should also be included) with each club allowed too have two players in there NYL squad from those particular nations.
It would be set up as a scholarship program (hopefully eligible for Government funding) and would be a very expensive endeavour (for reference I have seen NYL contract as low as 6.8k a year) but would have a few benefits.
Even if the player doesn’t end up being good enough for the A league once they turn 20 hopefully they go back to their own country as a better footballer and as a friend of Australia. If they are good enough and become a full international then it’s win win for both nations, Australia has helped produce an International and an A league club secured them for cheaper than what it would cost to secure a full mature age international.
For countries like Laos and Cambodia these scholarships would probably be seen as a pretty big deal. The associated trials, coaching visits, scouting missions, even friendlies would all promote the A league and Australia and should be a positive experience for all.
Of course with the current state of the FFA and A league money is tight, I would still like too see this announced even if most clubs can’t afford to act on it. There is probably a lead time involved in setting it up with negotiations between Australia and the other members of Asean being required. That lead in time gives A league clubs time to tap into Australian contacts already in Asia. There are Aussies all other the place in coaching and playing roles who could act as scouts/ambassadors, Garry Phillips, Scott Odonnell etc etc
Australian clubs will have to be a bit more cooperative with releasing players for AFF duty though, but we should be doing that anyway as it’s good promotion.
My rough list with comically simple reasoning
Nth Qld Fury – Singapore
Location, advertising Cairns as a holiday destination and the Fury played a friendly there before their debut season.
West Sydney (when it happens) – Vietnam
Just because of the huge community to help support such initiatives
Sydney Fc – Malaysia
Malaysia will go ga ga for Sydney FC’s Brendan Gan :)
Melbourne Victory – Thailand
Already have a sister club in Thailand and Surat Sukha on the books (and playing well this year)
Adelaide – Cambodia
Shallow as this is I know at least one Adelaide United fan lives in Phnom Penh.
Melbourne Heart – India
They were mentioned to be interested in Sunil Chhetri and given the bad PR Melbourne got in India from a spate of muggings a Government department may come to the party with funding something aimed at building bridges. India have huge football potential and there are already strong non football links between the nations, we should be doing more.
Brisbane Roar – Philippines
There is a reasonable large community in Brisbane but not known for being football lovers, a bit like us Aussies it’s our shared struggle that can bring us together. If we uncover the next Paulino Alcántara Riestrá , it would be worth it…speaking of worth it click on that link :P
Gold Coast United – Laos
I am sure there’s holes in the ground to be dug in Laos.
Central Coast – Myanmar
A very tricky one politically and perhaps Sri Lanka would represent a safer option.
Newcastle Jets – Timor Leste
Perhaps a short straw in regards to future A leage talent I do think the Newcastle community (as would any Australian) would embrace helping East Timor because of our involvement in their high profile battle for independence.
Perth Glory – Indonesia
Close geographically and there are a host of Western Australians in the Indonesian league already.
Wellington Phoenix – none obviously for those OFC non NYL fielding Kiwis.