Asias Travelling Man
The Asian football continent covers a wide area, from Guam in the Pacific Ocean to Lebanon by the Mediterranean Sea in the West. It also extends as far as Uzbekistan in central Asia and Australia in the southern hemisphere.
Tokuaki Suzuki is one man who understands the scale of the continent after visiting many countries for the AFC Champions League reform project. The Deputy Chairman of the AFC Pro League Ad Hoc Committee is in charge of assessing the readiness of member associations and their professional leagues ahead of the start of the reformed ACL next year.
His inspection tour started with 21 candidate associations in April 2007, and the 46-year-old Japanese football official has made three or four repeat visits for further checks and meetings over a 15-month period. Those trips kept him out of Japan for 250 days last year -and also helped him lose weight. “I feel fitter and healthier,” said Suzuki, laughing. “I feel happier about the fact that some countries have actually established professional leagues. But it’s hard when you have to trim the list.” Suzuki, who was a midfield playmaker in his school days, believes that he has built new and strong relationships with the people in Asia. “When you have a different background in terms of religion, law or lifestyle, it is not always easy to make people understand why we need to introduce certain standards. But the more you meet them and talk to them, the better you get to know each other. Then we are able to exchange ideas and talk about football together. That’s nice, isn’t it?” Suzuki will be visiting the participating associations again from September onwards in order to carry out final checks and thus to help Asia become a little bit smaller.