ASEAN clubs slam 'unprofessional' associations

Four South East Asian (ASEAN) clubs expelled by the Asian Football Confederation from the Asian Champions League have slammed their Football Associations' roles in the debacle. Thailand's 2005 champions Thai Tobacco Monopoly FC and runners-up Provincial Electricity Authority FC and Indonesian champion Persipura and cup winner Arema Malang were disqualified from the tournament after failing to submit their paperwork in time.

The two Thailand Premier League clubs demanded the Football Association of Thailand improve its efficiency and collaboration among its members. "It's not fair ... We've only received the documents to enrol our team on 9 February ... so it was impossible to meet the deadline of 12 February. The FAT never informed us about regulations or methods for the AFC Champions League. We had to find every document ourselves and they [the FAT] never sent us any," TTM vice-president Mongkolwat Ruhanont told Montreechai Lumyongsatian of The Nation.

PEA manager Adisorn Kiatchokewiwat was also very disappointed with the lack of assistance from the FAT, saying they should provide more help to the teams, especially those with little inexperience. "We got the registration documents on 14 February, two days after the deadline. How come? We don't understand why the FAT didn't notify us earlier. As the national association, they take full responsibility for contacting the AFC, while as a club we can't. We did all we can but the AFC asserts that the regulations are the regulations. We regret the inefficiency of the FAT."

The two League Indonesia clubs affected intend to file lawsuits against the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) for compensation. Both clubs claim that deadline information from the AFC was not passed to them by either PSSI or the League Indonesia Board (BLI) and Arema Malang's coach Benny Dolo is emphatic the club handed the list of players to the PSSI on 9 February.

"We've had enough of of what PSSI has done to us," Arema's general manager Satrijo Budi Wibawa told Bola sports newspaper (28 Feb). "We're not the only ones shamed but all Indonesian supporters. We've done everything required of us including renovating our stadium to AFC standards. PSSI saying sorry is just not good enough," he said.

Muhammad Taufan, Arema's public relations officer, told Wahyoe Boediwardhanahe of the Jakarta Post (1 March) the club had prepared jerseys for the event, booked tickets to Korea, arranged hotel accommodations and organised the passports and visas for the players and officials.

"But the damage that cannot be measured is the damage to the morale of the players after they learned they would not be allowed to play in the international tournament," he said. "We would be subject to harsh punishment by the PSSI if we violated the league's rule. So what punishment should be handed to the PSSI for its lace of discipline?" Taufan asked.

Arema is demanding an investigation into the case, the resignation of all PSSI officials, reforms of the PSSI and an automatic berth as Indonesia's representative to the Asian Champions League in 2007. "That is the price the PSSI should pay for its mistake," Taufan said.

This season is the first time the AFC has not allowed late registrations, but last year they accepted delays of up to five working days with a fine of $5,000. AFC president Mohamed bin Hammam said on Friday that the decision to disqualify the clubs should serve as a lesson that amateurism would not be tolerated.

Iroically, Hammam, called upon Asian football clubs to demonstrate professionalism in order to develop the game at an AFC seminar held on 22 February for team managers of clubs participating in this year’s AFC Champions League and AFC Cup.

One week earlier, AFC secretary-general, Datuk Peter Vellapan, shocked delegates to the FIFA Futuro III Administration and Management Course by rebuking ASEAN football federations for being the Asian continent's bottom group in FIFA world rankings. He said the AFC felt that efforts to instil professional management skills among ASEAN officials had not been successful because officials who attended previous Futuro programmes failed to implement the skills they acquired.

"I hope the officials do not just come and sit through the courses. You have to go back and become a catalyst for improvement. If not there won’t be anything to talk about for the next 100 years," he said.

A joint statement signed by all 23 ASEAN participants of the course - including Indonesian and Thailand - rejected Vellapan's criticism.

See also: Indonesian club demands FA accounts for debacle (28 Feb) and AFC sacks ASEAN four from Champions League (25 Feb) and AFC president again calls for club professionalism (22 Feb) and ASEAN football officials reject Velappan's criticism (18 Feb) and Program promotes 'business of football' in ASEAN (14 Feb)