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AFF: Awards, Suzuki Cup 2014 and a new member

Thai Association News Suphawut Thueanklang

One of the Best 2012: Suphawut
image: thai-fussball.com

The ASEAN Football Federation have set course for the future the last week on its ordinary congress. Beside an award ceremony and a draw, the association unanimously supported the initiation of a new member.

At the AFF's 20th ordinary congress, the association held an inaugural award ceremony with Thailand winning four of the 18 prizes. Referee of the 2012 (women): Pannipar Kamnueng; Fustal Player of the year 2012: Suphawut Thueanklang and for the best Futsal national team. Teerasil Dangda's equaliser against Malaysia at the semi final stage of the AFF Cup was named "Goal of the tournament"

"The of winner takes it all" and thus it was on the winner of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 Singapore, to collect most of the awards by winning five. With Kawin Thamsatchanan, Panuphong Wongsa, Anucha Kitpongsri, Theerathon Bunmathan and Teerasil Dangda five players from the Thai national team were voted for the "Best XI of 2012". Apart from Pannipar Kamnueng, Thailand came away completely empty-handed with prizes in women's category's.

Beside the awards ceremony the draw to the AFF Championship 2013 took place. The tournament is held between 17-28 October in Bangkok. Maybe by then, with a year delay, we can see the Bangkok Futsal Arena opening its doors. The result of the draw looks as follow. Group A: Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines and Brunai. Group B: Australia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Timor-Leste and Laos. At the same time, the tournament is deemed to be a qualification to the AFC Futsal Championships 2014. The top four teams are qualified.

At the end of the day, the congress came up with two big surprises. No. It is not the decision about the host countries for the AFF Suzuki Cup 2014, Singapore and Vietnam. Rather: the fact that there are no qualification round to be played. So for the first time since 2004, all AFF members are to enter the proper tournament. Up to now these are 11 nations. However, this could change soon. If the (soon) newest member decide to take part. And this is the second big surprise: Australia.

What provided only for a mumbling in Thailand and was worth just a marginal note in the local media created a much bigger buzz abroad (not least with a little help from us). Following a statement of Thai FA secretary general Ong-Arj Kosinkar on Wednesday; Australian FA spokesman came out on Friday and exclusively told Goal "Asean members have unanimously supported our entry into the AFF," he said "But it still has to be finalised at the meeting of the extraordinary congress in August." However, this seems just pure formality.

Australia joined the Asian Football Confederation in 2006 and since is an invitation member of the AFF. The socceroos senior side so far played only in the East Asian Championship. Indeed, only at invitation of the regional federation, the EAFF. While only junior sides have played in ASEAN tournaments.

As a full member of the AFF, Australia have the right to be part of the regions biggest competition, the AFF Suzuki Cup (but not the SEA-Games, here the IOC has its say). So will we see Asutralia in the coming 2014 event? This is the parting of the ways. The (current) official comments let suppose rather a no, and Australia's calendar might underline it. But Kosinkar's statement goes to the other direction. Although a final round with only 11 nations is feasible, however, can be realised much better with 12.

Looking at it geographically, and if one takes into account the present participation of youth teams and the Futsal national team of Australia in AFF competitions, a full membership of Australia makes absolutely sense. An AFF Suzuki Cup participation, would be only the last and logical step.
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