The Asian Champions League is Asia’s premier club competition. It is notoriously difficult to compete in for Australia’s A-League teams. But, do the public give the competition the credit it deserves? Are crowd numbers doing the tournament justice?
The Asian Champions League is now the hotbed of transfer activity. Players such as Jackson Martinez, Ramires, Alex Teixeira and Fredy Guarin are now all plying their trade at teams that could easily qualify for the Champions League. How good would it be to witness these players first hand, to be able to tell your friends that last night you saw some of the world’s hottest talent? Take Alex Teixeira for example. He was being touted as Liverpool’s way of getting back into European competition. Instead, he chose Jiangsu Suning, meeting up with Chelsea’s Ramires, and although their side was knocked out in the group stages, they are world class players on our doorstep. If that doesn’t entice even a casual football fan, then nothing will.
Whilst the ACL is not as illustrious as its European counterpart, it still comes with a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup. This is where Asian clubs can make history. Imagine an A-League side facing the likes of Real Madrid or Barcelona. This is what every fan dreams of. It is all possible through the ACL. Just to show how it came be done, 2 years ago, Auckland City, a team of semi-professionals, came one game short of facing Real Madrid for a spot in the final. The fans should be getting around their teams, as true history can stem from the Champions League. Australia’s very own Western Sydney Wanderers competed in the tournament in 2014, however did not progress. Yet, they are envied by all Australian clubs. All players harbour dreams of playing the best teams in the world. You will not find a single footballer whose does not have dreams of playing against the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Asian Champions League gives players the chance to do that, and will therefore increase the attractiveness of the A-League to world class quality.
Also, the publicity the competition it gives to Australian clubs is amazing. In 2014, Melbourne Victory beat Guangzhou Evergrande 2-0 at Etihad Stadium, in front of 13,120 people. Victory’s win against the reigning champions of Asia was watched by over 10 million people across the world. These are astonishing figures. Included in the 13,000 strong crowd was 2,500 Guangzhou fans. The Asian side bought the full away bay ticket allocation, and gave the tickets out for free to the local Chinese community. These people now regularly attend games, so the benefits of the ACL are great. Just think, a club from a city of just 300,000 people such as the Central Coast, whose club, The Mariners, could have their name up in lights.
The fact that the ACL begins at the end of the A-League season can be a good thing. If a club’s A-League campaign is not going well , they can focus more resources onto the ACL thus giving them a better chance of qualifying from the group stage. The perfect example is Sydney FC. Their A-League season was disastrous, but they turned their focus onto the ACL, and ended up finishing their group in first place, giving them an advantage in the knockout Round of 16
Finally, the games are quality. You will not attend an Asian Champions League game and leave disappointed. The matches seem to bring the best out of all teams involved. Ask anyone who has been to a game. They will tell you that watching your club up against the world’s best talent and doing themselves is a sight not to be missed. Some of the best attackers on the planet come up against some of the best defenders, meaning the standard of play is breathtaking. It is a unique competition, and nowhere else in the world will you see teams fly up to 12 hours to play a 90 minute match. The fans should appreciate the effort the teams go to in order to put in a world class performance. It is in the best interests of the fans to support in the ACL. If an Australian club wins the competition the domino effect will be huge. The game will improve at every level, and the teams will be able to attract high quality players who want to be a part of a continental conquering club.
All in all, the ACL is a great competition. No other sport in Australia offers the chance to playoff against the best teams in our continent for ultimate glory. So please, get out and support, it can only do the game good.