SINGAPORE: The proposed football ASEAN Super League (ASL) will help local players make the step up to bigger stages and in the wider scheme of things, improve Singapore’s national team.
This according to Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin, who also heads the committee behind the regional tournament which has been ten years in the making.
“FIFA is currently finalising the regulations of the competition. We are confident the ASL will begin in 2017,” he announced on Tuesday (Dec 29) during a press conference held after the FAS’ AGM.
Explaining how the ASL can serve as an outlet for local stars to move up to, Mr Zainudin said: “There’s a lot of talent aspiring beyond the local leagues, who want to go to the Japanese, Korean or even European leagues. But sometimes the jump is just too big, so we need to think about how we can provide for this vacuum of space, and I think the ASL will be a game-changer for that.”
He added: “The reality is that this is a region of more than 600 million people who are crazy about football. Don’t you feel that talent in Singapore will look at that and think they have a path; a journey to look forward to?”
“What do we want to provide for our talent? To just say ‘OK, play in this league’ or say ‘The world is your oyster’?” said Mr Zainudin. “We want to provide a stepping stone for them, and the ASL is that stepping stone where we can provide for our talent to think: ‘I cannot just stop at the Malaysian or Indonesian league, I can go up another level and maybe at ASL I will be spotted to play for an even bigger league’.”
By having the ASL work in tandem with the local S.League and youth development structure, Singapore can then move towards achieving its best national team possible, he added.
Mr Zainudin then pointed to the model of current world number 1 Belgium. “Their best 11 who are playing in their local Belgian league? They all play beyond their shores, in the best leagues in the world. So the question is, how do you develop talent and have them go as far as they can go?”
“European players are happy because they can build talent and skill, make it in their own league and when they break to a certain level of recognition, they go elsewhere. We should be thinking like that.”
WILL THE S.LEAGUE BE AFFECTED?
Mr Zainudin said the S.League would remain relevant as “a very good, competitive league for young, budding, talented players to be spotted by regional clubs and then go on further to their best ability and be selected for the national team”.
S.League CEO Lim Chin, meanwhile, said: “For all our stakeholders, the most important objective is to have a very strong Singapore national team. If we agree that the ASL will be a good platform for us to build a strong national team, then we should all work together to achieve that.”
“We have to find a creative way to transform the S.League into a system to fit into the ASL model,” he added. “The S.League is an important base where our budding footballers can fight for a place in this team and then go beyond, hopefully.”
It is also wrong to view Singapore’s best players going to the ASL as a setback, said FAS vice president Edwin Tong.
“It’s a new opportunity. If our best S.League players graduate into the ASL, it creates an opportunity for new talent. All the club chairmen will put in younger players, you will hear new names coming forward, and that’s how we get the conveyor belt moving.”