Australia proud to represent ASEAN in Russia

Scott McIntyre

No ASEAN team at Russia 2018? Scott McIntyre and the Football Federation Australia beg to differ.

History will be made this month with five AFC nations set to contest the FIFA World Cup for the first time and Southeast Asia’s lone representative has declared they’re proud to be flying the flag for ASEAN football.

Having joined the AFC in 2005 and then the ASEAN region half a decade ago, Australia will be the first nation from the region (for the second time) to join the global showpiece since the Dutch East Indies/Indonesia way back in 1938.

It’s a historic moment for Southeast Asia to put the region’s name up in lights and FFA Chief Executive David Gallop has told FOX Sports Asia it’s a responsibility that Australia doesn’t take lightly.

“In 2013, Football Federation Australia (FFA) was welcomed by our fellow ASEAN Member Associations as a member of the ASEAN Football Federation.

“The opportunity is highly valued by FFA, and it is our mission to contribute to the development of football in the ASEAN region.”

“In partnership with our fellow Member Associations, we have commenced a number of different programs – a development workshop for female administrators working in that area, assisting Member Associations realise their strategic goals, facilitating teams to train in Australia and support coach education.”

Unfortunately for many in the region – and that extends to a fleet of journalists who continue to ignore/be ignorant of the fact that FFA have long been an ASEAN nation – there remains a real lack of understanding both about the cultural reality of modern Australia as well as just how integrated the nation is with the broader region.

At the last government census, close to a million people identified as having ancestry from an ASEAN nation and Vietnamese is the fourth highest language spoken in Australia.

Tagalog is 7th and Bahasa Indonesia isn’t far behind – these are the realities of Australia in 2018, a nation whose face, culture and identity is rapidly shifting, yet there seems to still be an overwhelming sense of what Australia was half a century ago.

That extends to football where there is a strong misunderstanding of the modern reality of the nation but Gallop, speaking exclusively to FOX Sports Asia, said Australia is both proud of their position as an ASEAN nation and committed to working together with the other 11 members to ensure that the region continues to grow and prosper.

“With Vietnam making the final of the AFC U-23 Championships, Thailand’s Women’s National Team qualifying for successive FIFA Women’s World Cups and Indonesia hosting the 2018 Asian Games it’s clear that football continues to go from strength-to-strength.

“Australia is committed to looking for further ways we can collaborate with or support other ASEAN Member Associations in their objectives and to make positive contributions to the ASEAN community.”

That’s already extended to a host of programs that saw FFA play a crucial role in a meeting earlier this year as the Australian Government hosted the Heads of State of the various ASEAN governments.

During the summit, the Thailand Women’s U19 team was flown to the country for a training camp and match against their Australian opponents that was fully paid for by the FFA and the country also hosted the ASEAN Football Federation Council and ASEAN Women’s Development Workshop.

A joint program between FIFA, AFC, DFB (German Federation), FFA & PSSI will also start later this year focused on sport development and coach education in Indonesia, while the Australian National Team have also been active in conducting community visits during their matches in the region, with the team conducting youth clinics in Bangkok, a school clinic in Yangon and an orphanage visit in Phnom Penh.

There are also numerous programs in place to support women’s football development and FFA also consistently supports both visiting journalists and staff when they are in Australia.

These programs are done quietly so it’s understandable that many in the region don’t see the work that FFA is doing right across the region, but it’s about time they are recognised to dispel once and for all the idea that Australia is somehow an ‘outsider’ in the region.

So, rather than reading a stream of articles about how, apparently, there are a lack of ASEAN nations at the World Cup or how there is, supposedly, a tussle over which Asian nation to support in Russia the reality is that Southeast Asian football does indeed have their own member nation at the world’s biggest sporting event.

They go there not just as an Asian nation but a valued and proud member of ASEAN and for the good of football right across the region surely there will be a wave of support for the Socceroos – that’s certainly the hope and belief for Gallop and all involved in Australian football.

“For our part, Australia will be proud to represent ASEAN at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and we know that the region will be behind us when our first match against France kicks off on June 16.

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