FIFA President recognises Asian football progress

FIFA President Joseph S Blatter said Asian football faced a bright future, but tempered his praise with calls for stronger organisations and more professional leagues in Asian countries. He told a press conference in Jakarta that Asian football has now made sure of its position to be recognised in the international world of football but still need strong, autonomous, well-governed, professional leagues in each country. Blatter said such improvements would be needed to help make Asian football become more attractive to fans in the world's most populous region.

He admitted that European football would always play an important role in the region. However, Blatter, who is on a two-day visit to Indonesia to watch the Asian Cup finals, warned Asian football to not simply copy the European leagues. "Don't copy what they are doing in Europe. There are now European clubs with only one or two European players still playing," he said. European leagues have been flooded by players from South America and now Asia," he warned.

The Asian Football Confederation earlier forced English Premier League champion Manchester United to cancel its tour visit to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, one of the four co-hosts of the Asian Cup along with Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, out of fear the team's presence would overshadow the popularity of the championship. Blatter also hailed the AFC's decision to hold the quadrennial Asian Cup one year ahead of schedule to avoid clashing with the Beijing Olympics.