Ambitious plans for Asian event
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is looking to elevate the Asian Club Championship to the level of the European Cup.
The prestigious Asian tournament kicks off in various cities today, including the first-leg tie between Malaysian champions Selangor and Hong Kong giants South China at the 80,000-seat Shah Alam Stadium (kick-off at 8.30 pm).
AFC general secretary Peter Velappan said the sport's regional governing body had high hopes for this season's competition.
'The AFC has put a lot of priority on the Asian Club Championship because clubs are the nucleus of soccer development in Asia,' he said.
'Through the tournament we are looking for more professionally organised clubs and an improved quality of players and training. It will also help improve the standard of the national teams.' Velappan added there would be random drug tests during this season's 30-team tournament to ensure a 'clean' competition.
'The AFC medical committee will conduct random tests after some of the matches. We want to ensure every participating team a clean and fair competition,' he said.
With the success of the last Asian Club Championship, which saw South Korean side Pohang Steelers lifting the title in March, Velappan hopes this season's event will be even more successful.
'We are seeking more co-operation from the mass media in promoting the tournament,' said Velappan.
'Of course, the quality of the teams is the most important element. This season we have 30 strong teams participating, which is the highest number in the history of the Asian Club Championship. I believe the games will be much more exciting.'