ASEAN Super League will give Singaporean football bright future, says Zainudin

Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin is confident that the vaunted ASEAN Super League (ASL) will go ahead in 2017 and set the pathway for local footballers to shine on the regional stage. 

Zainudin was eager to explain how the ASL will help Singaporean football develop in the long run, adding that all 12 Southeast Asian nations have agreed to participate in the ASL that is set to go ahead once world governing body FIFA finalises the framework.   

“I heard so many views and opinions on the ASL,” the 52-year-old told assembled media at the 33rd FAS Annual General Meeting. “As with any other new thing, there will be people who do not buy into it.

“The reality is there are 600 million people in the region crazy about football and we see lots of talents out there. Many of them aspire to go beyond playing in their own league; they want to go to Japan, Korea or even Europe, but sometimes the jump is just too big.

“That’s why we want to provide this vacuum in between for countries to groom talent. Over the years, we have seen how money and resources is going out from this region to other regions; paying professional players in Europe. Wouldn’t you want the money to pay talent in this region instead?

“We need to start thinking about bringing value in here and fill in this gap. This region needs to have a regional league - that’s why the ASL will happen.”

Taking a leaf from Belgium’s recent success at the international level, Zainudin is adamant that the best local football talents should be plying their trade on a higher level than the S.League.

READ ALSO Zainudin admits he could step down from FAS presidency as elections loom

“Our S.League has been around for 20 years and we’re proud of it, but it has come to a point where we need to find out what our next vision is,” said the former Member of Parliament.

“With the ASL allowing talent to move up, the players will know that they have the opportunity to be spotted and play beyond their shores. If you look at Belgium, their players Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Christian Benteke are all playing overseas.

“We need to allow them to do so to grow to the best of their abilities. The S.League can be a competitive league for budding talents to rise up to the next level.”

S.League CEO Lim Chin proved supportive of Zainudin’s vision, emphasising that there is a way for the ASL and S.League to co-exist.

“After a one-year review, our stakeholders including club chairmen and the FAS management have agreed that we want to see a strong national team side,” the official said.

“If we agree that the ASL is the platform going forward, we should all streamline and work towards achieving that. We need to work together as a cohesive ecosystem and decide how the S.League can fit in.

“The ASL team can only take 25 to 30 players, that’s why the S.League is still important as a base for budding footballers. It may not get as much media space as the ASL, but that’s where you, the media, come in and help us to balance things out.”