Southeast Asia

Domestic Football Must Recapture Limelight After Extended Absence

Once again, a long, gruelling South-East Asian football season has been punctuated by international football. It has a sight that has become increasingly familiar for fans in this region of the world, but it is still far from being embraced with open arms.

Despite their extended participation in the competition, the domestic leagues of the finalist nations, Japan and Korea, continued with limited fuss as tension continues to build going into the business end of the season.

For the Thai League, a division currently grappling with falling attendances and waning interest in the domestic competition, the state of play returning from the break may not facilitate the most substantial return. With Champions-elect Buriram United sitting nine-points clear atop the table, there is very little to play for other than survival in Thailand’s top flight.

A similar situation has manifested in Vietnam, where Hanoi FC sit 16 points ahead of the rest and look very unlikely to be removed from the nation’s only AFC Champions League qualification spot.

Despite the immense passion for the sport in both nations, there remains a fear that turnout may not be high when games resume in both nations over the coming week. While the coastal nation can live off the euphoria of their run to the semi-finals of the Asian Games, Thai football fans will struggle to pick themselves up after another dismal showing by the up-and-coming generation at an international tournament.

Domestic football continues to unfortunately compete with the international game, despite many believing that the two could work alongside each other harmoniously. Whether this break will have the lasting impacts many will fear remains to be seen.