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ASIANS IN BIGGER LEAGUES

I always feel particularly excited, to an extend it sets my adrenaline pumping real hard and fast, whenever I read about any futbol article which reports Asian players moving to the bigger leagues in Europe!  This

I always feel particularly excited, to an extend it sets my adrenaline pumping real hard and fast, whenever I read about any futbol article which reports Asian players moving to the bigger leagues in Europe! 

This morning while I was on my way to work, I chanced upon an article which reported QPR boss, AirAsia CEO, Tony Fernandes, promised to bring Singaporean (players) to England for trials. Probably its the underachievement of Asia or rather, I should say its Singapore’s futbol which gives me such a narrow-minded perspective? 

Back in the nineties, there wasn’t much Asians plying their trade in Europe probably only Miura Kazuyoshi, who’s also famously known as King Kazu, to all his fans, became the first Asian ever to play in Italian Serie-A. Kazu did not have a successful spell with Italian’s Genoa netting only1 goal in all his outings. He returned to the J-League in less than a year. 

After the success of France World Cup 1998 champaign, the rest of the world witnessed what Asians could do and the scenes of European clubs snapping up top Asian players unfolded. Asian players started to be recognized by European clubs. Constantly on their clubs’ radar, Asian players did well to secure permanent move to the bigger European leagues. Paths to bigger leagues are established and more top-notch Asian players were realizing the Asian dreams.

One of the earliest Asian players to ride on the success of the France World Cup 1998 champaign, was Iran’s Ali Daei who turned out for Bayern Munich in 1998 where he scored 6 goals from his 23 outings. Together with him knocking on European doors, was his fellow country mate, Mehdi Mahdavikia who was loaned to VfL Bochum. Another successful export from Asia was Japan’s Hidetoshi Nakata who enjoyed success with A.C. Perugia where he scored 10 goals in his first Serie-A season! Other than solely just merchandizes’ benefit, China’s Fan Zhiyi and Sun Jihai also had great playing times at Crystal Palace when the duo transferred to England in 1998. And especially Fan Zhiyi, he enjoyed a total of 88 outings with 6 goals!

True enough, the above are classic examples of the exports from Asia’s power houses, how about ASEAN countries near us? We do have our fair shares of excitements too!

India’s favorite futbol son, Baichung Bhutia did well in the region which saw him securing a move to England’s Bury F.C in 1999. Thailand’s own “Zico”, Kiatisuk Senamuang, turned out for Huddersfield Town in 1999. One of those most recent transfers in our backyard included Thailand’s Suree Sukha’s move to Manchester City in 2007! 

Over the years, Asian’s futbol has been improving so do ASEAN’s futbol. After doing some quick calculations, there are about 11 Japanese, 9 South Koreans, 3 Bahrainis, 2 Chinese, 2 Iranians, 2 Lebanese and 2 Uzbekistanis plying their trade in Europe. Not to forget there are many more other Asian players in the slightly lower European leagues too. Many futbol associations understand the need to give their players’ higher level of futbol exposures, therefore sending their potential players oversea especially to Europe hoping players could return with a contract or if not valuable experiences. 

In search of future success, Singapore has been doing the same by sending players oversea as well. Singapore’s top striker, Indra Shadan Daud underwent a training with Chelsea FC in 2003 and attended a trial with Major League’s Real Salt Lake in 2008 where he nearly landed himself a contract. Compatriot, Noh Alam Shah, went on trial with Notts County in England and Skonto Riga in Latvia between 2006-2007. Youngster Hariss Harun was sent to Barcelona’s famed academy, La Masia, for training in 2007 and he returned with a MVP award. Subsequently Hariss went on trial with Chinese Super League’s Shanghai Shenghua in 2010 but cited chinese environment as his main obstacle upon his return. Former Asian Footballer of the Year Award nominee, Singapore’s custodian, Lionel Lewis, was invited to train with Manchester City in 2007 and had a trial at Swiss Super League club, Grasshopper-Club Zurich in 2008. 

Effort to send players to the best clubs and leagues will not only benefit futbol player themselves, it will also benefit Asian futbol. Regardless what, as an Asian, let’s continue to support Asian futbol and hopefully in times to come, we could repeat what the Japanese Women’s team has done (first) – do Asian futbol proud by lifting the World Cup trophy!

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