Too much on the calendar for Asean Super League
ASL will get green light when it shows it can work around existing busy schedule
V Sundramoorthy's Lions lined up against Indonesia at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila last night in a do-or-die Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup Group A fixture.
Over in Malan, an Indonesia Soccer Championship A (ISC A) clash between Arema Coronus and PS TNI kicked off later.
Inconsistency has been a fixture of the South-east Asian football calendar, with leagues across the region varying their kick-off dates and matchdays, and it could prove to be the biggest stumbling block for the Asean Super League (ASL), which has yet to step into the sunlight.
The ASL - headed by former Football Association of Singapore president Zainudin Nordin with the backing of the AFF - will need approval from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and world football governing body Fifa before any launch, and unless it can find a space for itself within what is a tight calendar, it may not get the green light.
"Yes, the ASL has yet to get AFC approval, and that approval would be based on its ability to organise the competition under the structure of the AFC," AFC general secretary Windsor John told The New Paper.
"We have yet to receive the details of the ASL, so it's premature to comment (on how the ASL can work around a tight schedule of domestic leagues and other regional tournaments)."
A look around the region illustrates a lack of alignment in league schedules.
Like Singapore's S.League, the Vietnamese top tier and the Malaysian Super League (MSL) kick off in February.
While Singapore's season tends to end in November, the V-League 1 finishes in September, while the MSL concludes in October.
In 2016, the Thai Premier League ran from March to October, while the current ISC A only comes to a close in mid-December.
This has yet to take into consideration the other smaller domestic leagues in the region, as well as qualifiers for AFC regional club competitions, the AFC Cup and the AFC Champions League, which usually start in January.
There is also the Toyota Mekong Cup, an AFC-sanctioned club tournament already into its third year. It runs between October and January, featuring top teams of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.
TNP reported in March 2015 that the AFF was looking to align all the calendars of domestic leagues in the region ahead of the launch of the ASL in 2017, but the size of the task points to 2018 as a more likely kickoff date.
Speaking to TNP then, Zainudin said: "It is an ideal scenario if league calendars across the region are aligned - we need to do this.
"We want to assure all Asean Member Associations (MAs) that we want to create a win-win situation with the least amount of conflicts.
"We're trying to find ways so that local leagues don't get affected."
Newly appointed president of the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) provisional council, Lim Kia Tong, told TNP that there has been no decision taken on the ASL by his council.
It is likely that the new FAS council will make any decision regarding the ASL after the country's first-ever election (it must be held by May 2017).
ASL efforts are being spearheaded by Zainudin, who is travelling the region to present the plan for the competition and seek out sponsors and owners of the new franchises that will do battle in it.
He was in Kuala Lumpur on Monday to meet AFC officials and provide an update on the progress of the ASL.
Zainudin had earlier revealed that the ASL has received in-principle approval from the AFC as well as Fifa for the launch of the ASL.