10 AFF nations along with Singapore have sealed a historic agreement with East Asia, led by Japan, to work closer together on bringing Asian football to the next levelFootball Associations (FAs) from Asean Football Federation (AFF) and East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) met in Japan to work on building closer ties with mutual growth also on the cards.
Ten FAs from AFF and eight from EAFF attended the week-long meeting with four other FAs from outside the two regions being present as well.
The participants focussed on three strategic areas of improvement; structure and standard of competition across all age groups, administrative capabilities including governance, marketing, branding, management and finances, and capability of players, coaches and referees.
Speaking at a press conference arranged on Wednesday afternoon, Japanese Football Association (JFA) vice-president Kohzo Tashima, highlighted Singapore's strength in administration while sharing the stage with Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Secretary General, Winston Lee and Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president HRH Prince Abdullah Ahmad Shah.
"Japan and Asean have supported each other for many years, especially before Japan emerged on the world stage," Tashima told Goal. "In the 70s and 80s when Japan was not so strong, it was a tremendous opportunity to participate in tournaments hosted by Asean countries. We wish to contribute to ASEAN football and we think that the economic environment will help us to become good rivals."
"We want to see how we can collectively strengthen football in Asia; Japan are a leader technically, but they need other nations to be strong to succeed on the world stage," added Lee.
A working committee structure was also unveiled at the press conference with representatives from AFF and EAFF co-chairing each of the three committees that have been formed.
China's Zhang Jian and Camboadia's Khiev Sameth will undertake the responsibility of the Competition Committee, while Thailand's Worawi Makudi and Kohzo Tashima will oversee Player,Coaching and Referee Committee.
Singapore's Lee meanwhile is the sole Chairperson for the Administration Committee with an EAFF representative still yet to be determined.
The committees will come under the purview of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
Tashima also praised the level of support that Asean competitions command, citing the AFF Suzuki Cup as an example and Malaysia's domestic league for providing the blueprint to the J-League's success.
"A lot of J-League players are gaining experience playing in countries such as Thailand and Malaysia; it's a good opportunity for them to earn a living and international exposure," Tashima told Goal.
"Our league was able to help develop in the 1990s through studying the experience of Malaysia. They're (Asean nations) able to hold a phenomenal competition like the AFF Suzuki Cup with enthusiastic fans and packed stadiums. The fans surround the stadium for important matches. We don't have that in Japan yet, and we can learn from that. It's an example of fantastic marketing."