|FFA Chairman, Frank Lowy, with his|
PSSI counterpart Nurdin Halid
The ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) elections are due to be held in early April and the result of the election could have an impact on Australia’s application for full membership into the ASEAN Football Federation.
Five years ago, when Australia was accepted as a member of the AFC, the AFC Executive Committee placed Australia into the ASEAN zone. It was a move welcomed by FFA Chairman, Frank Lowy.
"We are extremely pleased with the outcome," Lowy said at the time.
"We are glad to be a contributing member of the AFC and we have no problems at all being part of ASEAN. It is where we want to be."
The move was seen as a positive one for Australia politically as it gave the FFA the opportunity to grow its influence within the region.
However, five years on and Australia is still only an “invited member” of the AFF.
The outcome of next month’s AFF elections could be important in the FFA’s ongoing discussions to become a full member.
Back in January last year the FFA and Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) signed an agreement, committing to closer ties between the two nations.
Part of the agreement was for the PSSI to “…assist the FFA to fully integrate into South East Asian football and the ASEAN Football Federation”.
One of the men who signed the document was PSSI President Nurdin Halid, a highly controversial figure in South East Asian Football.
Halid, who has twice been jailed for corruption, has been President of the PSSI since 2004 and is up for re-election this year. FIFA are taking a keen interest in the elections, with some suggesting that FIFA have recommended that Halid be barred from contesting the elections.
Last week FIFA announced that the PSSI must complete its elections by the end of April, with 29 April the date set down by the PSSI.
Halid, meanwhile, is not just content with running for the presidency of the PSSI, he is also in the running for the role of Chairman of the AFF. Given his role in forging the agreement between the FFA and PSSI, if he were successful it would be a significant boost to the FFA’s chances.
However, given his background and the outcry over the “consultants” used by the FFA for the World Cup Bid, the FFA will be doing its best to steer clear of the election proceedings and any controversy that would come from being linked with Halid.
For their part, the FFA is “hopeful and excited” to resume discussions with the AFF after next month’s elections.
The AFF has set up an ad-hoc committee to consider Australia’s request, one that would require a significant change to the AFF’s constitution.
Speaking to Asian Football Feast, FFA’s Head of National Teams and International Relations, John Boultbee, explained the process of Australia gaining full membership.
“The constitution of the AFF stipulates that you have to be a member of the ASEAN group of countries to become a member of AFF,” Boultbee said.
“Australia is not an ASEAN country. So to become a member requires a change of the constitution.”
The FFA becoming a more involved player in ASEAN was something I raised back in December last year when I wrote, “getting full membership of the ASEAN Football Federation and having a team participate in the biennial AFF Cup must be close to top of the agenda for the FFA. It is important politically as well as being important for our football development.”
The FFA agrees…to an extent.
“We want to be a contributor to football in our region, and participate fully in decisions and activities to develop football in our region,” Boultbee explained.
However, if Australia is accepted as a full member of the AFF they will not seek to have a team participate in the AFF Suzuki Cup.
Boultbee explained the rationale behind the FFA’s decision.
“We have made it clear that we would not seek to play in the Suzuki Cup. Matches are played home and away, and it does not make sense for teams to fly 7, 8 or 9 hours to play Australia and vice versa.”
The various underage tournaments would provide a great development opportunity for Australia’s junior players. Australia has already having been invited to a number of underage events and the FFA would continue to send teams to participate in underage tournaments if granted full membership.
There is no timeframe as to when the FFA can expect a decision, although you get the impression they are keen to secure full membership sooner rather than later.
If and when that day comes it will be another historic day for Football in Australia, let’s just hope it’s not one shrouded in controversy.