JFA Website Special Top
JFA Website Special

AFC President Mohamed Bin Hammam expressed high expectations on the reform of Asia's football leagues, which the Qatari president has set as the biggest target of his second term in office, calling it "a product made in Asia by Asians."

The Asian governing body of the sport launched the project last May by creating the AFC Professional League Ad-Hoc Committee, chaired by JFA President Saburo Kawabuchi.

The committee is working on the reform of the AFC Champions League to turn it into a more attractive and competitive club competition, while introducing professional leagues in each member association. The JFA are taking the initiative in this AFC project, using their experience from the launch of the J. League.

"What I am expecting from the JFA and their leaders is to give their experience to the other Asian fellows - exactly the same experience which has lifted up the level of Japanese football from where it was 15 years ago to where it is today," President Hammam said on Tuesday in his office at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur following the AFC Congress. At the assembly, Kawabuchi made a presentation on the AFC's reform project.

President Hammam said that the JFA president's presentation should have convinced any doubters, especially for those who are taking the business of developing and promoting football seriously.

"That was exactly what I had imagined and what lots of the delegates at the Congress had imagined," President Hammam said. "They were saying, 'Wow, this only happened 15 years ago?' "

"You know, more than 50 percent or 60 to 70 percent of football in Asia today is similar to what existed in Japan 15 to 16 years ago. They have learned that a lot of things changed through dedication, vision and will."

"I remember that everybody was dreaming to meet Japan in any qualifications and various matches 15 or 16 years ago (laughs). But today nobody wishes it. It is a big change," the AFC president added.

"Vision Asia has established the base of football in Asia over the last six to seven years, and it has to be reflected in the top level," President Hammam said, "The professional league is the demand for not only what exists in the market - TV, advertisement and sponsors - but also catering to a new generation."

JFA President Kawabuchi commented after his presentation: "Their leagues won't be exactly the same as the J. League because of the difference of their environments."

"Having said that, what they have to do is the same as we did. They can implement the revamp according to their own surroundings. But I did want them to understand you cannot expect to see success by merely extending what you already have. That's why we are introducing high standards and won’t make it vague. I suppose they can understand that," Kawabuchi noted.

The AFC Professional League Committee started their inspection work last month and have already visited four associations - Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar - out of 21 possible candidates to join the new ACL, checking current conditions in line with the criteria they have drawn up.

The committee is scheduled to complete its inspections by November, and is to announce the new ACL format in November next year for the start of a new competition in February 2009.

●JFA President Kawabuchi stresses importance of AFC Pro League project

●Interview with FIFA President Blatter