Asean Super League is on

2012 AFF Player of the Year Shahril Ishak (right) and defender Baihakki Khaizan could have prominent roles in the 2015 ASEAN Super League.

It was keenly anticipated, with some in the football fraternity suggesting it could raise excitement levels even further in the football-mad region.

While there was much talk over the last couple of years about an ASEAN Football League (ASL), the national associations around the region stayed away from any official announcement.

Until Wednesday, when Tengku Abdullah ibni Sultan Ahmad Shah, the deputy president of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and vice-president of the Asian Football Confederation executive committee, announced that the ASL will kick off in 2015.

At a press conference held before the ASEAN Football Federation Awards 2013, held at the Hyatt Regency Kuantan Resort, he confirmed the league's launch, and also announced that Singapore and Vietnam will co-host next year's Suzuki Cup. Singapore, record four-time winners of the ASEAN title after last year's triumph, hosted the tournament in 1996 and 2002.

Last December, The New Paper revealed that the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) had signalled their interest to host the Suzuki Cup at the new Sports Hub, which includes a 55,000-seater National Stadium and will be completed next April.

Next year's tournament will be bigger than the last few Suzuki Cups, as minnows such as Laos, Myanmar, Timor Leste, Brunei and Cambodia will probably not need to participate in qualifiers to play.

What had the football community buzzing here was the news of the ASL, which should kick off in early 2015.

Many details will have to be worked out, but Tengku Abdullah said: "The competition will be based on a franchise concept and ideally, 16 teams (will take part). Each team will be allowed two Asian players plus three non-Asian players."

Proposal

The proposal is for the season to run from February to October, and it will feature a league and one cup competition. The ASL will be the first regional league in the world, unlike the Champions League, which is a cup competition.

Contrary to some reports, The New Paper understands the organising committee is open to the idea of teams coming from all South-east Asian countries.

It has not been decided whether existing teams, or new teams built from scratch, will participate.

However, TNP understands that the ASL could follow the model of the United States' Major League Football, and look into the viability of corporate entities adopting the teams.

A source said: "With over 600 million people in this region, most of them football fans, we are confident of attracting sponsors and fans, and that this competition will be a success."

FAM general secretary Azzudin Ahmad added: "This is exciting news and we are looking forward to the tournament developing into something like the Champions League of this region.

"There are still issues to be sorted out, such as the teams taking part, and how to 'de-conflict' the fixture list with the fixtures of each country's local league."

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