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[AFF Suzuki Cup 2020] Was It Benny's Idea In 1977?

Indonesia (red) and Thailand (blue) are finalists of AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 Final (credit: Jaron Lee)

While it may seem like a different concept when he made the suggestion in 1977, but the ongoing AFF Suzuki Cup - a tournament contested by Asean nations should be the brainchild of Indonesian Benny Moelyono.

Speaking to The Straits Times during 1978 Pre-World Cup qualifiers, the then Indonesia assistant team manager proposed an "Asean Cup soccer tournament, run along the lines of the UEFA Cup"

According to Moelyono, Asean "needs is a meaningful competition," and invitation tournaments like King's Cup (of Thailand), Merdeka Cup (Tournament of Malaysia) were for the "sake of it" which did not arouse national spirit like the Asean tournament he proposed.

The idea of "Asean Cup" first mooted in 1977 (credit: NLB archive)

"I'm sure it would be a success. Besides helping Asean countries improve their soccer standards, the tournament would foster closer ties among the nations" said Moelyono, as quoted in the said article.

Unfortunately, this innovative suggestion by the man who was also the chairman of Warna Agung - one of Indonesia's leading clubs in the 1970s did not have any tangible follow-up after it was made to the Singapore broadsheet.

The idea of the genuine tournament to decide the regional supremacy resurfaced with the formation of the Asean Football Federation (AFF) in 1984 and initially, the plan was to hold the "Asean Cup" in March 1996 in Bangkok, according to a Straits Times report dated August 1995.

The dream finally turned reality with the inaugural of the "Tiger Cup" in September 1996 with 10 teams participating in this groundbreaking tournament (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand with hosts Singapore were named as founding participants, while Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam were invited to take part as they were not full AFF members at that point of time).

After some negotiations perceived to be taken place towards the end of 1995, local brewers Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) - the brewers of Tiger Beer committed themselves as the title sponsors of the tournament which grew to be the focal point of South East Asian football in years to come.

In the words of Charlie Charters, the then group sales manager of AML, the Hong Kong-based agency which helped to clinch the sponsorship: "The Asean region does not have a true championship. You can't really call the SEA (South-east Asia) Games champion the champion of the region."

That sentiment was echoed by the then Thai FA general secretary Worawi Makudi.

The ticket to the 2004 Tiger Cup Final (2nd-Leg)

"Thailand won the SEA Games last year (1995) but I do not consider my own country the champion of South East Asia until we have won the Tiger Cup here in September (1996)." said Worawi in one New Paper (TNP) report published on February 1996.

In the same TNP report that carried Charters' words in January 1996, it was reported Singapore as the host nation was "given the subsidy for running the two-week tournament from Sept 1-14." and the winning team of the "Tiger Cup", as what it would be called, would be awarded the cash prize-money of US$80,000.

The tournament's association with Singapore-based pale lager came to an end when the APB decided not to renew their commitment after concluding the 2004 Tiger Cup which saw Singapore beat Indonesia 5-2 on aggregate to clinch their second title of this tournament.

The media pass of the 2007 AFF Championship

As the result, the tournament was simply known as the "2007 AFF Championship" without a title sponsor before Japanese car manufacturers Suzuki Motor Corporation was named the title sponsors of the AFF Championship (formally called the ASEAN Football Federation Championship) ever since.


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