Opinion

Australia's women can show the men how Asian Champions League is done

Sydney FC celebrate a goal in a W-League match Source: Getty Images

Sam Kerr could very well lead Chelsea to the UEFA Women’s Champions League title this year, in what would be a fine achievement for a world-class player as well as an inspiring story.

Another one could be an Australian team winning the 2023 AFC Women’s Champions League.

Wednesday's announcement from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) that it plans to launch such a tournament was a welcome one. It is time.

"In 2020, the AFC commenced an extensive survey among its 47 Member Associations to better understand the current status of women's domestic club competitions... with the view of launching a continental women's club competition that is beneficial to all MAs,” the AFC said in a statement.

"Looking ahead, the AFC is also planning to organise another two pilot editions of the women's Club Championship. Based on the experience... the AFC will decide the format and calendar for the Women's Champions League in 2023, which will be announced in due course."

Not only is it time. It is also an opportunity - an opportunity for Australian football and for the women to show the men how it is done in Asia on and off the pitch.

While there have been some highs in the men’s tournament since A-League teams joined in 2007, such as Adelaide reaching the final in 2008 and the Western Sydney Wanderers winning the whole thing in 2014, the moments have been few and far between.

There have been too many excuses and not enough embracing of the tournament.

Perhaps joining an already established competition played a part in that but it can’t be right that two leading teams such as Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC have such dismal records, just three times out of the group stage in 15 combined appearances.

At least with the women there will not be the excuses of salary caps and cashed-up Chinese and Japanese clubs lavishing money on their squads. The playing field in women’s football in Asia is more level in financial terms than the men’s.

W-League teams have a great chance to lift the trophy. Australia is obviously a leading nation in women’s football and will be automatic contenders.

There is no reason for anyone down under not to take the tournament seriously and no reason why there can’t be success that can take the domestic game to new heights with regular games against teams from Japan, China, South Korea and elsewhere.

There is also a proposal for a Women’s FIFA Club World Cup and that really adds an extra incentive. The chance to take on teams from the United States and South America would be something else, as would taking on Kerr when she is wearing Chelsea's colours.

Even better, however, would be Australia really getting involved with the new event and working hard to make it a success.

It is fitting that the continental club competition is set to start in the same year that the Women’s World Cup will come to the country.

That can provide a springboard for the Champions League. There is a chance to help build something new and not join something already established.

Australia is a leading women’s power in the continent and can do a lot to lift standards elsewhere to help build the tournament and help other nations where the female set-up is not quite as developed.

Australia’s men missed the start of the AFC Champions League and have missed opportunities ever since - on and off the pitch.

The women will be there from the get-go and can show them how it is done.