Play-offs for Australia

The A-League 2010-11 season has reached the Finals.  Brisbane Roars already booked a place to next year’s AFC Champions League by winning the regular season with astonishing 60% win rate and only one loss. The Roars are joined by Central Coast, Adelaide, Gold Coast, Melbourne Victory, and Wellington. Defending champions Sydney avoided the dearth of wooden spoon, but still ranked on the 9th position, one point worse than debutant Melbourne Heart.

Unlike the Korean system where the season leaders wait in the final, Brisbane will meet runner up Central Coast beginning this Friday. The losers will wait for the winners of playoffs between the other four, before setting up with the top two’s semi final winners in the Grand Final in March. While Brisbane rely on the duo of Jean Carlos Solorzano and Kosta Barbarouses, with some help from German Thomas Broich, Central Coast relies on the most productive local player Matt Simon.

Continental football being weird, again

UAE is located in East Asia. At least according to AFC Champions League, which will pit UAE’s Al-Ain with Indonesia’s Sriwijaya FC for the last East Asian slot. While the last AFF Suzuki Cup was a month-long 8 nations tournament, now the supposedly big cup is a hurried affair. When Sriwijaya tied 1-1 with Thai champions Muangthong United in Palembang, Indonesia, the match went on to extra time, where both teams scored, then to penalties shoot out, and to sudden death penalties shoot out, where Sriwijaya prevailed (and where goalkeeper Ferry Rotinsulu proved that he deserved better in the national team). In Europe and South America they would have gone home and away – but not here. Not with budget airlines, not with both teams located in Southeast Asia.

And the hard-earned victory only gave Sriwijaya the rights to host the Gulf team, who supposedly replaced the Vietnam representative. Really? Can’t Sriwijaya and Muangthong just play home and away to fight for the spot ? Or add an Australian team? Isn’t UAE overrepresented with three teams in the Western conference? Is there another better explanation than Arab Money? Even if Al Ain loses, and they better be to ensure the balance between West and East Asia, they will go to the East Asia bloc of the AFC Cup. Out of eight groups, only three are allocated for East. Indian allegiance is ‘flexible’ – in Champions League they are West Asia, in the Cup they are East.

Which brings us to East Asia’s own flaws. Indonesia’s league, bad as it seems, is still not as bad as other leagues in administration and in quality. It just gets worse beyond East Asia – Hong Kong. What else? Maldives? Nepal? We’re out of countries here. Taiwan doesn’t have a pro league. Is everything bad with Thai league has to do with its political situation?

A quick remedy is for East Asian representatives in the AFC Cup to reach for the finals.  They should have taken themselves, and the competition, more seriously. Simply put, West Asia have shown some Asian Vision – that they are continental clubs. South East Asia+HK better do the same.