The future is Asia
The 22nd AFC Congress held in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) on 7 – 8 May 2007, attended by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, was a demonstration of the strong will of Asian football to develop and fulfil the potential to become one of the leading global powerhouses of the beautiful game. Under the title “The future is Asia”, the congress unanimously re-elected Mohamed bin Hammam as AFC President for a second term, while the entire AFC Executive Committee was also elected unopposed for the first time in its history, showing the confederation’s unity at a crucial moment for the growth of the sport on the continent.
The key element has dominated the two days was the development of Asian football at all levels, for youth and senior competitions, fort clubs and national teams, and for both men and women. The launching of a new, well-organized and entirely professional AFC Champions League from 2009 was addressed by Japan Football Association President Saburo Kawabuchi, founding father of the highly successful J-League, in his presentation “The future of professional football in Asia”. The building of a strong local fan base, the construction of adequate stadiums and facilities, and the creation of good youth teams were some of the main points mentioned and which will have to achieved in order to allow the star Asian club competition to compete with its counterparts from Europe and South America.
The growing importance of the women’s game was reflected in the revolutionary decision of the congress to include a minimum of four women – one of them a vice-president – in the AFC Executive Committee starting in 2009. A clear statement was also made to continue the development of the associations and teams through the Vision Asia project launched by Bin Hammam in 2002, and especially focusing on the youth of the continent.
Similarly, the participation of Australia in the AFC Congress for the first time was welcomed by the members of the Asian football family, who look forward with anticipation to the presentation of the Aussies at the main competition for national teams on the continent, the AFC Cup of Nations, in the coming month of July.
One day before the celebration of the congress, on 6 May, Blatter officially inaugurated the first FIFA Goal project in Malaysia, a floodlit football turf pitch at the premises of the football academy of Kuala Lumpur, in a ceremony which included the participation of the girls’ and boys’ teams that train at those facilities. Accompanied by Malaysian Minister of Youth and Sports Azalina Othman Said, by Vice-President of the Malaysian FA HRH Tengku Abdullah Ibni Sultan Ahmad Shah and by Bin Hammam, President Blatter said that FIFA will continue to support the associations in the development of the sport throughout the world, but reminded them that it is the local football and government leaders that must take the first step and request the specific assistance they need to build the adequate infrastructure.
With these development projects well underway, the future of Asian football is looking brighter than ever. The “Asian Giant” is awakening and ready to take on the world.