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AFF Suzuki Cup and ASEAN Connectivity

Eka An Aqimuddin*

What makes football seems so exciting for million people in the world? If you ask this question to a French philosopher, Albert Camus, then we will hear him saying that he owe morality and obligations to football. Of course, Camus made that statement with certain limitation.

We can also learn how to build connectivity from football. When Cameroon defeated Argentina in the 1990 World Cups group phase 1 to 0, it creates a sense of pride as an African nation. Furthermore, Cameroon not only personified as singular as just state but plural as a symbol of the greatness of Africa nation.

Similar sentiments can also be seen when South Africa was elected to be the host of the 2010 World Cup. Even South African Former President, Thabo Mbeki said that the event was a glorious and proud moment for the birth of Africa. We have learned that Football can bring people together in one region, integrate them and strengthen their connectivity.

At Southeast Asia level, we have the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF), which every two years holding AFF Suzuki Cup. In addition, as an arena to shows each ASEAN members national team skills and abilities, this event has another goal to strengthen relationship among ASEAN members states

The 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup will be held in Thailand and Malaysia starting November 24, to December 22. The qualifying phases already ended several days ago passing two teams to final round, Myanmar and Laos. It is also interesting to see Timor Leste, which is a non-ASEAN member, participating in AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 qualifying phase.

Even though Timor Leste failed to reach the final round, it was a good sign for their admission request to become a new member of ASEAN. Timor Leste has started the integration process with the whole ASEAN members although through it is conducted in a non formal way. Once again, football has succeeded become a medium to integrate people in South East Asia region.

The roles of ASEAN

AFF Suzuki Cup has biennially held since 1996 but we did not see its relation to ASEAN relationship. ASEAN, as a regional organization, should realize that football has the soft power to create connectivity between members states. Connectivity is the key word in the attempt to create ASEAN community. Considering one of the results at the 17th ASEAN Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, connectivity is the most important for the realization of the ASEAN Community by 2015.

Unfortunately, ASEAN has not given full attentions to sport, especially football, as a medium to connect ASEAN people. Traced back to ASEAN formal document, ASEAN Charter and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community blueprint, sport especially football did not mentioned as a medium to integrate ASEAN people. It can be interpreted that football is not important at all to create ASEAN connectivity.

However, Article 2 (1) of the AFF Statute clearly states that one of the organization purposes is to associate with the ASEAN secretariat in furtherance of the common objectives of ASEAN through cultural and sport activities. In other words, since the AFF establishment they realize the function to support ASEAN in order to achieve its goals.

The lack of relation between ASEAN and AFF is understandable because they are both an independent institution. However, this is seemingly odd because since the 1983 AFF is a nongovernmental organization associated with the ASEAN. Although there is no sub-ordination relationships but there should be a code of conduct between ASEAN and AFF.

A good example of relationships between two independent institutions is between the European Union (EU) and Union of European Football Association (UEFA). Initially, the two institutions are equally independent and have different jurisdictions but since frictions that happened in the case of Bosman ruling in 1995, relationship between them reconsidered. Relationship between EU and UEFA was reevaluated as stipulated in Article 165 of the Treaty of Lisbon 2009 which states EU is involved in the development of European sport, including football.

Bosman ruling itself is a dispute that occurred in 1995 between Jean-Marc Bosman with his former club, RC Liege (Belgium), a member of Belgian Football Association (BFA). The disputes occurred due to Bosman transfer from RC Liege to Dunkurque football club (France) was delayed because there was no international transfer certificate issued by the BFA. BFA did not issued the certificate because there is no recommendation from RC Liege which did not receive a fee from Bosmans contract with Dunkurque.

Consequently, Bosman failed to play in Dunkurque and RC Liege due to his expired contract had been not renewed. Bosman status as a football player was unclear since no football clubs hire him. Then Bosman filed a lawsuit against RC Liege and BFA to the European Court of human rights (ECHR) to protect his rights to find job and move freely.

ECHR ruling favors Bosman. This case not only changes player transfer system in football but also the relationship between UE and UEFA. UEFA nowadays have a limitation to create rules, it should be comply the provisions within the Treaty of Lisbon in order to strengthen the European community.

Both ASEAN and AFF should take the lesson drawn from UE and UEFA relationship to build a connectivity of ASEAN Community 2015. Nowadays, ASEAN have to utilize football as a medium to accelerate ASEAN connectivity. Based on previous AFF Suzuki Cup, football has successfully attracted the Southeast Asia people to connect each other. Such connectivity is exactly what the ASEAN leaders hope, connecting people to people. Because football not only a sport but also a classroom from where we can learn about the significant of cooperation. The one thing we need the most when building a community.

*Blawger and International Law Lecturer, Bandung Islamic University