Saturday, September 6th sees the 9th edition of the Asian Championships, the holy grail of football in this part of the world. This year sees 10 teams competing in two groups under a lightning premiership type format. Whilst in the past the all-important draw has been random, this year sees the finalists of the 2007 Championship, Hong Kong and Bali deliberately drawn in opposing groups. A further innovation is the introduction of semi-finals where, in a cross-over manner, the top two teams of each group will meet, the winners to contest the Grand Final.
Because of the intense nature of the competition, being played over one day, often in extreme weather conditions, fitness and depth of squad are often major contributing factors in determining the outcome. So far, only 3 teams, Hong Kong (3), Singapore (3) and Indonesia (playing as a combined Jakarta-Bali side) have won the Asian Championships, though Bali have finished runner-up in the past 3 years.
The 2008 championships will be held on the grounds of the Singapore Polo Club and will offer a great venue for the Asian Champs including for the first time 5 star corporate and VIP entertainment plus a dedicated kids play area with jumping castle, face painters and more.
The Singapore Wombats proved to be too fit and too powerful for the Malaysian Warriors in a tough encounter played in wet conditions at Alice Smith ground in Kuala Lumpur on 23rd August.
After an even first quarter, the Wombats' resilience, superior teamwork and ability to run enabled them to eke out a comfortable 8.7.55 to 2.8.20 victory, thereby regaining the Changi Cup, a trophy they lost for the first time last year, and extending their dominance over traditional rivals Malaysia to 20 wins against just four losses since the year 2000.
Timor-Leste, better known to Australians as East Timor, is one of the newer sovereign nations in the world, becoming independent from Indonesia in 2002.
It also has one of the world's newest Australian football sides, with the Timor-Leste Crocs taking their name from a local legend about a crocodile who rescued a boy stranded in the ocean. When the crocodile stopped swimming, its body became the island of Timor, and the boy the first of the Timorese people.
While footy has had an on-and-off-again presence in the country since around 1999, the new-look Crocs look like being here to stay, with plans for a development officer and recruiting underway to send a team of Timorese nationals to the Northern Territory FL's indigenous footy carnival in Darwin in October.
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.