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Asian Championships 2008 - A pioneer reflects

  • Friday, September 12 2008 @ 04:43 pm ACST
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Geoff Blethyn played 84 games for Essendon between 1968-72 and 1976 kicking 216 goals, topping the 100 goals in 1972, was leading goal kicker twice with Claremont and played in the Port Adelaide premiership side in 1977. He played his last game for Malaysia in 1992. He has always maintained contact with the Warriors but had not seen a game in Asia since that date.

At the invitation of the Malaysian Warriors, Geoff attended the 9th Asian Championships held in Singapore on 6th September. His comments on the Championships make interesting reading and are reported verbatim below.

"Having departed Malaysian and Asian Football in 1992 I was amazed at the organization of the 2008 event in terms of the number of teams: all on one huge oval complex together with each allocated a shaded area for preparation and recovery plus the coordination, catering etc.

As each team would play a minimum of four games in a single day with a relatively short break in between, the sponsor viewing area was placed strategically between the two ovals so it was possible to watch the four teams playing at once as well as hearing the siren to start and end games: a great set up! I was always looking up in the direction of the sound of the siren too and seeing the major sponsor’s logo: San Miguel...very clever marketing.

It was a crucial part of the planning that each team resting between games was responsible for supplying both goal and boundary umpires for the other matches and slick communication ensured that all rolled out as per the timetable. Commendable!

In 1972 I was a member of the Australian All Stars side competing against Carlton, the then VFL Premiers, in the best of three knockout series in the UK and Greece with the last, and deciding match, played in the soaring Singapore heat and humidity. We won… 2-1! But who would have thought I'd be in Singapore twenty six years later watching China play Malaysia and the UAE versus Laos!

The football at these 2008 Asian Championships was played in a fantastic spirit and although overnight rain had made the ground soft, the skill level was very high despite the added whammy of the sun breaking through and the temperature rising dramatically. The competition was fierce from every player, all wanting to win as only Aussie's do, but showing great sportsmanship towards one another. I was very impressed to say the least, and as one of the Warriors water boys I was very busy at each break making sure all players had plenty of fluid: the attention to detail that all teams had, and the level of professionalism shown by teams and off-field functionaries would be the envy of many Australian amateur and semi-professional sides.

The advent of the under-age teams was interesting with the percentage of Asian-born footballers in each team up dramatically as compared with the seniors – encouraging for the development of the game in Asia. Sure, their skills need working on, but their speed and endeavor for possession of the pill really stood out. Well done lads! The support that rallied for the young players was a credit to the Clubs and the parents involved.

To all the people who made this event work so well especially well, to the host side Singapore and to all the players who busted their guts on the day: you can all be proud as there is no tougher day than to play a game then rest, play again and rest, play again and rest and so on, and although only one team could win the title you all won the day for Asian Football and its future.

Thank you for the invitation to attend the event. I am rapt that I was able to be there. I'll see you next year!"

Geoff Blethyn
Ex Malaysian Captain-Coach
Essendon, Claremont, Port Adelaide