Football in Asia has enjoyed remarkable growth over the past 10 years. More teams, greater competitiveness, real Club spirit and now the introduction of Auskick and other development programmes. As the 9th Asian Championships approach, with each year becoming bigger and better, perhaps it is time the respective Clubs got together and created a unified body to move the game to the next level.
The first championships held in Bangkok in 2000 attracted 4 teams, no sponsorship, and offered very basic facilities. This year’s Asian Championships takes place in Singapore on 6th September and will feature at least 10 teams with current holders Hong Kong, hosts and likely favourites, Singapore, to be joined by an expected very strong team from the UAE along with perennial challengers Bali, Jakarta, Malaysia, Thailand, China (not the Red Demons who will be in Melbourne for the IC08) and Vietnam with first-timers Laos. With each team bringing an average of 25 players plus support staff, the Championships will host a gathering of some 300 plus participants, a very healthy turnout indeed.
The challenge in Asia is now to take the next step, where more clubs begin to undertake the challenge of getting the indigenous communities involved and participating in football, and look towards the creation of a regional body.
Round 2 of the this year's Changi Cup takes place at Alice Smith International School in Kuala Lumpur on 23rd August, 2008.
The Changi Cup is a best-of-three matches competition between Malaysia and Singapore and is one Asia's older football competitions having been played every year since 1997.
Historically Singapore have been dominant, winning every year until 2007 when the Malaysian Warriors triumphed over the Wombats on November 3rd, 10-7-67 to 6-4-40 to win the rubber 2-1 and take the Cup for the first time.
Round 1 2008 saw Singapore under new coach Ash Martin score a comfortable 10 goal win on home territory at Turf City on 26th April, 2008.
With the Changi Cup on the line and the Asian Championships looming on September 6th, no quarter will be asked or given in this upcoming encounter between traditional rivals.
The Warriors have been very hard to beat at home in recent years and coach Matty Black is sure to have his charges fired up for what promises to be a cracker of a game and we will bring you a full write up on worldfootynews.com
The Bali 9s last June saw the debut of two new teams in South-East Asia - the Timor Leste Crocs and the Borneo Bears. Both teams were created this year, with the Bears based in Balikpapan, a city situated on the island of Borneo, in the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan.
A few months on, the club was on the training track, with a squad of Australians, Kiwis, Europeans and locals. In honour of the Kalimantan Sun Bear found in the surrounding jungle, the team took on the name "Bears", starting a relationship between the club and a local Bear sanctuary which the club is helping both through donations and volunteer assistance.
In addition to another tournament in Bali in October, the Bears starting an Auskick program in two weeks' time and plans for a mini-league in local schools.
At last our great game seems to be getting some coverage from mainstream media sources. The Lao Elephants game v Jakarta Bintangs game earlier this year got good coverage in the Vientiane Times, and it was excellent to see a very nice write-up of the recent Thailand Tigers clash with the Hong Kong Dragons in the major English daily The Bangkok Post.
The following is an excerpt of the original article available here.
AUSSIE RULES - Thailand Tigers beat Hong Kong in Pattaya thriller
by DAVID PATERSON
Thailand's Australian Rules Football club, the Thailand Tigers hosted reigning Asian Champions the Hong Kong Dragons recently at Horseshoe Point in Pattaya and handed the champions their first defeat in more than a year.
It was a significant victory by the Thailand Tigers as the best Australian football sides have not been able to get close to the Hong Kong team in recent times.
The last time the Dragons came to Thailand, they were undefeated in their run through the 2007 Asia championships, eventually taking home the trophy after a thrilling extra-time final against the Bali Geckos. However this time a rejuvenated Tigers team took it to the champs to come away with victory.
Final score: Thailand Tigers - 8.7.55 defeated the Hong Kong Dragons - 6.6.42
It is great to see the increased coverage the game is getting. With the Singapore Asian Championships promising to be a massive event, Asian Football is really moving ahead in leaps and bounds.
Final preparations are underway for the region's biggest Australian football event, the Asian Championships, to be held in Singapore at the Singapore Polo Club on September 6th.
The first Championships were held in Bangkok in the year 2000 and the event has grown in stature each year.
It is expected that this year at least 10 sides will compete for the coveted trophy. Confirmed participants include the current title holders Hong Kong Dragons, 3-time runner-up Bali Geckos, 2-time winner Jakarta Bintangs, Malaysian Warriors, Vietnam Swans, Thailand Tigers, debutante Laos Elephants, UAE Heat, China Reds, and hosts and 2-time winners Singapore.
With the Asian Championships fast approaching, a number of the contenders had serious hitouts on the weekend of July 26th.
At the picturesque Cibubur Oval in Jakarta, the visiting Singapore Wombats proved too powerful for the Jakarta Bintangs, running out winners 19.13.127 to 11.12.78. Jakarta are always very hard to beat at home so this was a big win for the Wombats. As hosts of the Asian Championships they deserve to be favourites to lift the trophy. Match report at the Wombats website.
In Pattaya, south of Bangkok, the Thailand Tigers overcame a spirited Hong Kong Dragons side. The Dragons fought back from a five goal half-time deficit before going down by 11 points in a fierce, low-scoring game. The Dragons have often lost away games only to come up trumps in the Asian Championships so not too much should be read into this, but reports are that Thailand could spring some major surprises on September 6th. Match report at the Dragons homepage.
And at the University of Laos the Vietnam Swans overcame the Laos Elephants 80 points to 55. A good win for the Swans with a depleted team but given that this was only the second international game the Laos boys have played, the Swans were expected to win. Match report at the Lao Elephants homepage.
The next big game in Asia is at the Alice Smith Ground in Kuala Lumpur on 26th August when the current Changi Cup holders, the Malaysian Warriors, take on Singapore in both teams' final games prior to the Championships.
Editor's note: WFN welcomes Graeme "GC" Carey from the Malaysian Warriors onboard as our new Asia correspondent. GC is a well-known figure around the Asian club circuit and we look forward to benefitting from his insights into this neck of the footballing woods.
The Beijing Bombers featured in a great video on Foxsports.com.au this week, with interviews of development officer Andrew Sawitsch and local convert Zhang You, who regards the sport as a "Man's Game".
The video focuses on the development of the Bombers, as well as the build-up to the International Cup, which will feature a Chinese Red Demons team with a very healthy contingent from the Beijing Bombers. The Bombers are lauded as the "best team in China", a statement backed up by their recent strong victory over arch-rivals the Shanghai Tigers, with the Hong Kong Dragons and Tianjin Demons also given a mention.
Laura Dundovic, Australia’s nomination for the Miss Universe Pageant, is in Vietnam in the lead-up for this year's final judging on July 14 at the Diamond Bay Resort, Khanh Hoa Province, in Nha Trang.
June 24 saw her pull on a Vietnam Swans jumper for the "National Dress" section of the pageant, after meeting for a photo session with members of the Swans in Saigon. Unfortunately for Laura, she didn't score any points for the outfit, but according the the Swans' Phil Johns "Miss Australia was amazing. While she didn’t do well with the National Costume dress the other day, her wit, personality and charm is exquisite. She is quite the consummate professional."
The organisers claim that globally, there will be 1 billion viewers from 170 countries watching the final event on July 14th. According to the Miss Universe website, the contest is an opportunity for "beautiful young ladies from more than 80 countries not only to share their culture but also their values, intelligence, talent and beauty."
Last month, the Swans played against the Singapore Wombats in Hanoi. Next month will see them travel to Laos to play the Elephants, then finally a trip to the Asian Championships in Singapore in early September when 12 of Asia's finest Australian football outfits will compete.
The Bali Geckos, an Indonesian football club that has previously fielded ex-AFL players such as Jason McCartney and has enjoyed high-profile support (former Australian Prime Minister Mr. John Howard watched a game), hosted the fourth annual Bali 9s Masters tournament earlier this month. As the tournament name suggests, teams consist of nine players on the field, in the 35-or-over age bracket. Matches were comprised of two twelve-minute halves, with the event held at The Canggu Club. Readers please note that the Bali 9s Masters tournament differs from the regular Bali 9s tournament, which is held yearly in October in remembrance of victims of the Bali Bombings.
Apart from the Geckos, teams present at the 2008 event were the Jakarta Bintangs, Singapore Wombats, Dubai Dingoes (pictured left), Darwin Dingoes (Northern Territory, Australia), Castlemaine Masters (Victoria, Australia), South Coast Buccaneers (NSW, Australia) and the Darwin Waratahs (Northern Territory, Australia). Also present were the recently formed Timor Leste Crocs and Borneo Bears.
Vying for a spot alongside South Africa is the USA and India. A USA match would coincide with the country's G'day USA festival, with Lauderhill the likely venue. Potential Indian venues are in Mumbai (Bombay) and Bengaluru (Bangalore) - the country's most and third-most populous cities respectively. Apparently Bengaluru is firming as the preferred Indian venue due to its more pleasant climate.
Andrew Demetriou, who made the revelations, seemed to be pleased with the results of last year's Dubai match, which brought together Australian business, government and much of the expatriate community.