Sat, 21 Jun 2003

AFF seeks to lift ASEAN soccer level via LG Cup

Musthofid, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The inaugural LG Cup ASEAN Club Championship, which Indonesia will host next month, was officially launched here on Friday as part of an effort by the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) to improve the level of play in the countries of the region.

Twelve clubs, which were either 2002 or 2003 champions in their respective national leagues, are set to take part in the championship, which will be staged in Jakarta and Gresik, East Java. The matches will run from July 13 to July 26.

"The ASEAN Club Championship will allow teams in the region to move up to a higher level," AFF Vice President Ibrahim Othman said during a media briefing after the launching of the event at Le Meridien Hotel.

"The event is part of our program to develop football in the respective (ASEAN) countries. We hope that the clubs in the region will be able to match any club in Asia," he said.

Friday's gathering featured officials of the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI), representatives from the participating clubs, players, and the tournament's sponsor LG Electronics.

All countries grouped in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have representatives. As the host, Indonesia is represented by 2002 champion, Petrokimia Putra, and runner-up Persita Tangerang, while East Bengal of India will join the tournament as an invitee.

"The next nearest region is South Asia, whose best club appears to be East Bengal," Othman said regarding the inclusion of the New Delhi-based club in the championship.

Three players were presented during the gathering: Zaenal Arif of Persita, Zaenal Ikhwan of Petrokimia and Terdsak Chaiman of Bec-Tero Sassana. (not Vietnam's Gialia as previously reported). Bec-Tero was Thailand's 2002 champion.

Petro and Persita will play in the ASEAN championship following contrasting performances in the 2003 league. Persita currently tops the 18-team league while Petro is struggling midway down the table.

Terdsak Chaiman used his recent winning run with the national team in Jakarta in the 2002 Tiger Cup as a motivating booster ahead of the club championship, saying he was keen to do it again, now with his club Bec-Tero Sassana.

Although it finished runner-up in the 2003 season behind Krung Thai Bank, Bec-Tero must be one of the favorites in the championship given the fact that its line-up features seven Thai national team players.