AFC must do more for struggling clubs
Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan renowned for its stunning mountain backdrop, succulent peaches and wide, tree lined streets. It is also the host for the 2012 edition of the AFC Presidents Cup.
The Presidents Cup is the AFC’s club competition for emerging football nations; the problem cases if you will.
Group stages were held in different places across the federation and the mountain fastness of Dushanbe was selected to host the final. Clubs from Palestine, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Taiwan and, for one lucky Australian, Cambodia took part.
Hence for the last week I have had the pleasure of watching Phnom Penh Crown being decimated by Dordoi from Kyrgystan and by the eventual winners, Istiklol of Tajikistan (who won last night in a wonderful come from behind victory against Al Amma’ri Youth from Palestine in front of 19,000 cheering fans).
Yet, there is an underlining commonality amongst these clubs that needs to be addressed by the AFC, and that is governance.
Many of these clubs are stand-outs in poorly administered federations which are holding back the development of Asian football.
So the question needs to be asked, should the development of football in poorly governed regions of the world be federation or club led?
The club-led philosophy has worked well in Thailand and has the potential to be equally successful in places such as Kyrgyzstan where a well run, forward thinking club such as Dordoi exists. Cambodia is in a similar situation where club-led initiatives dominate the local scene.
Federations in many of these countries are often hampered by political interference coupled with a patronage system that encourages poor governance practices. The governance structures of FIFA do little to dissuade this.
Hence the AFC Presidents Cup needs to be more than a tournament for the also rans; teams barred from the higher competitions due to the poor management of their national federation.
It needs to be a tournament where ideas are shared, lessons learned and concepts discussed. It needs to be a tournament where like-minded people can get together and forge ahead with club-led development.
None of this is currently part of the tournament agenda.
This tournament provides the chance for the AFC to assist in the facilitation of stronger club structures in weaker federations.
The AFC need to acknowledge that different approaches to football development need to be adopted for different countries.
This is difficult, as the federations are meant to be the guardians of football development for their respective country. This tournament offers a chance to assist those whose guardians are not doing their job. It is an opportunity that should be seized upon.
For this Australian the tournament is over, but those mountains behind me are beckoning and I believe a glacier is in danger of being hiked across tomorrow.
And my God those peaches are good.