Is Australia too good for ASEAN? Or will the higher level of competition be good for the region?
Let us here at FOX Sports Asia run you through the biggest talking points.
— Let’s begin!
Sure thing. It may be the offseason in Europe right now but there’s plenty of football action still happening in this part of the world. Over the past two weeks teams of talented teenagers have flocked to the sunny city of Chonburi, Thailand to face off in the annual ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) U-15 Championship.
Nice indeed. And perhaps particularly nice for Australia, who have been one of the standout teams in the tournament thus far. The young Socceroos scored an incredible 24 goals and only conceded 6 against its ASEAN opposition in the group stage.
It’s won four out of its five group games, including an 8-0 drubbing of a hapless Singapore side – faltering only once so far in their defeat to the consistently impressive Thais.
— Wow. So wait. What’s the problem?
Like most things, it starts to get a bit tricky when you start thinking about the geopolitics of everything.
The “A” in AFF stands for ASEAN, and while Australia also starts with the letter “A”, it technically isn’t a member of ASEAN. Technically.
— Ah. That’s strange.
Sort of. But geopolitics aside, this isn’t a new issue – despite not being a member of ASEAN, Australia has been accepted as a member of the AFF since 2013. Australia itself was seeking a higher level of competition from the ASEAN Federation that what it had access to in the less-competitive Oceania Football Confederation.
— So everything is accounted for, technically!
That said, the issue of Australia’s AFF membership continues to surface as a topic of debate from time to time in the years since the switch.
— Why again? Why now?
This time, it looks like Australia might have become a victim of its own success. They’ve excelled in the U15 tournament so far, and that’s attracted its share of criticism from fans in the region.
The backlash often centres on whether Australia really sees itself as “truly” Asian (often referring back to its continued absence from the AFF Suzuki Cup, seen as the most important football competition in the region), while it continues to dominate many other ASEAN member nations in lower level competitions such as this one.
It hasn’t all been doom and gloom, however. Over at the ASEAN Football Community for example, fans have been much more upbeat about Australia’s participation in AFF tournaments.
Fans who welcome Australia’s presence often point out that having a higher level of competition for their own local talents to face might mean suffering losses in the short term, but in the long run, facing better opponents will ultimately help to spur them on to greater heights.
— Oh, that sounds good.
Pretty good. A win-win situation, some might say!
So what do you think of Australia’s participation in AFF competitions? Do you welcome the Socceroos? Will they help to inspire and motivate your country’s players to improve?
Let us know!