ASEAN Football Championship
Every great story has a humble beginning and so it is with the history of the ASEAN Football Federation.
It started way back in 1982, in what was initially an informal meeting between several members of the ASEAN family, turned out to be the foundation of a Federation that is responsible for one of the biggest football championships in the world, the AFF Football championship.
The initial meeting in Bangkok was attended by Dato’ Seri Haji Hamzah Haji Abu Samah (Malaysia), Dato’ Peter Velappan (AFC), Mr. Hans Pendelaki (Indonesia), Mr. Fernando G. Alvarez (Philippine), Mr. Pisit Ngampanich (Thailand), Mr. Teo Chong Tee (Singapore) and Mr. Yap Boon Chuan (Singapore).
The original idea for the meeting, then held in between the meetings of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Executive Committee in Bangkok, was to look into the possibility of having a Champions’ Club Competition among ASEAN Member Associations.
It was felt that since there was a great disparity in football standard between nations the ASEAN nations i.e. between those who have and those who do not, this tournament would help close the gap between the countries.
By then, ASEAN was already a strong political entity which had already hosted the South East Asia Games for ASEAN member countries for more than two decades.
It was felt that a close cooperation at the football level would improve the quality of football across the region and would make it more competitive at the Asian and world level meets.
Five further meetings of the ASEAN National Associations were held the next year traversing between Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok before the AFF were formalised in Kuala Lumpur.
The very first meeting of the newly established ASEAN Football Federation or the AFF was held from 31 January 1984 to 1 February 1984 in Jakarta and was attended by members from Brunei DS, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and Thailand.
The six countries concerned were the founding members of the AFF.
The first office bearers were elected from the country chosen to host the very first ASEAN Club Championship.
The First Elected office bearers were:–
President : Mr. H. Kardono (Indonesia)
Vice-President : Pengiran Ibrahim Pengiran Damit (Brunei DS)
Honorary Secretary: Dr. Johnny J. L. M (Indonesia)
Honorary Treasurer: Mr. Gazfan S. Ali (Indonesia)
In line with the ideals of the political entity of ASEAN which was to strengthen ties between member countries, the AFF attempted to hold on to those ideals by organising four editions of the ASEAN Club Championship between 1984 and 1989.
The tournament was organised with the aim of deciding which team would represent ASEAN at the Asian Club Championships to go against the best clubs in Asia.
Called the First ASEAN Champions’ Cup, the inaugural meet in 1984 was won by Bangkok Bank of Thailand when they beat Yanita Utama of Indonesia 1-0 in the final at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in front of 80, 000 fans.
With just four teams in 1985, Kuala Lumpur from Malaysia emerged winners ahead of Tiga Berlian from Indonesia, Tiong Bahru CSC from Singapore and Brunei’s Kota Rangers.
In 1988, the ASEAN Champions’ Cup was held again with Thai Air Force taking the top spot ahead of Pahang while a year later, Kuala Lumpur from Malaysia were the winners, pipping Pelita Jaya of Indonesia to the crown.
But with a change in format for the AFC-organised Asian Club Championship a year later, compounded with a lack of response from member associations, as well as financial constraints, the ASEAN Champions’ Cup fizzled out.
The AFF then went into hibernation with activities restricted to mostly development activities and were country based with participation from other ASEAN countries purely on invitation by the host country for a particular course or seminar.
With no controlling intermediary body to liaise between member countries, contact between Asean National Associations was minimal.
A New Beginning
Some half a decade later in 1994, the FA of Malaysia initiated a revival of the AFF with the aim of mutual assistance and streamlining the field of management and administration, coaching and refereeing.
Any thoughts of organising tournaments were not immediately viable as finance was an issue and the AFF did not have an executive body able to administer such an undertaking.
At the time, the AFF headquarters moved from one Member Association to another and it was only much later that the headquarters of the AFF found its permanent home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The first Congress of the ‘new era’ was held on 4 February 1994.
It was held to discuss beneficial assistance between member countries and to hand over the presidency of the AFF to the FA of Thailand.
The AFF Constitution was amended a year later at the 5th AFF Congress on 3 June 1996 in Kuala Lumpur with regards to the election of officer bearers – a move away from the initial rotational basis.
Instead of just one vice-president previously, there were two vice-presidents as well as the provision to now allow any member of Asean to be full members of the AFF.
The office bearers for the 1996/1998 session were also unveiled with H.E. Tengku Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Ahmad Rithaudeen Al-Haj Bin Tengku Ismail from Malaysia taking over the helm as the president of the Federation.
The two vice presidents were Mr. Nabon Noor of Indonesia and Dato’ Vijit Getkaew of Thailand while Dato’ Paul Mony Samuel, the secretary/ treasurer of the Federation.
At the same Congress, Mr. H Kardono was made Honorary President and Dato’ T.P. Murugasu an Honorary Member in recognition of their earlier meritorious efforts.
Likewise, Mr Nabon Noor and Dato’ Vijit Getkaew were later on made the Honorary Vice Presidents of the Federation at the 7 Congress on 31 March 2007 respectively.
At the same time, the decision was made to invite Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to be full-fledged members of the AFF – making the Federation now ten countries strong.
The new logo of the AFF was also introduced the same year.
Dato’ Worawi Makudi, the then general secretary of the FA of Thailand and Dato’ Paul Mony Samuel, then general secretary of the FA of Malaysia, remembered those times well.
“We knew that we had to look for money for the AFF and we needed to have a competition which was marketable, ” said Dato’ Worawi.
“So Dato’ Paul and I sat down to think of ways where we can make the AFF more attractive to sponsors and we thought that we need a competition which could provide not only the thrust to make the member countries of the AFF more competitive but also to give financial footing to the Federation for all its other intended activities.”