by Bhas Kunju | Chief Editor, Goal Singapore
The highly anticipated Asean Super League (ASL) which was expected to kick-off next year is now banking on the approval of Fifa says Asian Football Confederation (AFC) General Secretary Dato' Alex Soosay.
Speaking to Goal Singapore, the third highest ranked AFC official, revealed that the project is still in developmental stages with Singapore as reported earlier taking the lead.
"This matter is in the hands of Fifa now," said Dato' Soosay. "Currently, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is responsible to provide all the necessary details to Fifa on the implementation of the ASL."
He added that the competition will boost the the standard of football in the Asean region, with member nations already 'doing their utmost'.
"AFC is happy with this development which will raise the level of football in this highly potential region.
"The regional championships of Asean (AFF Suzuki Cup) attract big following from the media and fans and that shows the interest in Asean football."
The ASL was originally mooted for a 2015 debut with 12 participating teams but according to recent media reports, it may be delayed until 2016.
With FAS' Memorandum of Understanding with Football Association of Malaysia approving LionsXII's participation in the Malaysian Super League until the end of 2015, the Singapore team have been heavily tipped to continue as a franchise in the ASL with the new 55,000 capacity Sports Hub Stadium serving as a base.
Dato' Soosay also spoke about the disparity between Asean football and their far successful Asian counterparts in the East and West regions, pointing out that they have benefitted from comprehensive development programs, something that should be replicated in Asean.
"The other regions, especially East and West, are a step ahead when it comes to professionalisation and implementation of systematic development plans," he said. "Japan, Korea and Australia have strong grassroots and youth programmes which helped them. Asean Member Associations also need to take a leaf out of their programmes to match them."
The former Negeri Sembilan FA player, who has been with AFC for nearly two decades, added that stronger Asean leagues could help improve the profile of the players in the region and attract the attention of European scouts.
"Definitely Asean footballers have the capability to make a mark in Europe and the only thing is they have to wait for the right opportunity," said Dato' Soosay. " The East Asian players are supported by stronger [domestic] leagues and club structures. I feel the leagues in Asean need to be made stronger and popular for the European scouts to look for talent in this region."