While Southeast Asian fans have a good deal of passion for football, the region lags behind the big boys of the continent when it comes to the beautiful game.
Its national teams do not appear at the World Cup and are an increasingly rare sight at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup. Its clubs have never done much in the AFC Champions League either.
In spite of that, or perhaps because of it, a new ASEAN Super League will kick off in 2015.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Two teams each from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines are set to take part.
It remains to be seen if the competition will takes the form of a genuine league competition in which teams play each other twice or the more traditional ”Champions League” format in which the 16 teams are placed in groups of four and then enter a knockout stage in order to reach the final.
"Details of the league are still being discussed but as for now, 16 teams from Asean countries may take part because each country can send two teams,” ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Committee member and Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) Deputy president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah announced April 3.
Tengku continued, "Competition will be held on a franchise basis with each team allowed to register two players from an ASEAN country and six players from non-ASEAN countries.”
The league hopes that a new tournament will help to raise standards for football in the region.
There have long been rumors that such a thing could happen. In 2012, Tony Fernandes, the Malaysian Indian CEO of Air Asia and chairman of the English Premier League team Queens Park Rangers, talked of investing in such a project.
"I have always dreamed of an ASEAN football league," Fernandes told reporters last August. "I will put money in an ASEAN league. It will be great to have an ASEAN football league like the European (Champions League). It will be exciting to see players from Malaysia and Singapore play.”
There is a precedent in that the region has a basketball super league that features teams from Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. It is going strong after three years. Further, there is talk that the league’s current roster of six teams could be expanded to ten.
While this may have paid off for basketball, it remains to be seen if a new club tournament will make a difference for football help Southeast Asian football raise its game.