Asian football is looking it’s brightest at this moment of time. At national team level -Japan’s national team beat Spain by a goal to nil in the London 2012 Olympics therefore breaking their record of never beating Spain at any age group level.
Not only did they win but they completely dominated the Spanish in terms of physicality ( despite the team averaging height of only 5″10″) they also reverted Spain’s usually honest nature to “enfrentamientos” – a spanish term for childlike arguing by using their tactical superiority and dynasty on the ball.
Other reasons to suggest the future is bright for Asian football is the effect of the 2002 World Cup co hosted by South Korea and Japan is finally producing the players said to come through the youth ranks after witnessing the heroics of the national teams in the World Cup. Park Ji sung used his World Cup experience to become the “poster boy” of Asian football and could soon be followed down the path of football fame by Shinji Kagawa who has recently joined Manchester United for a Asian record of £17 million which looks a bargain in today’s transfers standards. Kagawa scored his first United goal in a friendly versus Shanghai Shenhua – a club that has made headlines with recent transfer activity (more about that later).
The 2022 World Cup has been granted to the tiny Gulf state of Qatar – with the country set to become the smallest nation ever to host the World Cup. The decision was met with elation across Asia, especially Qatar, who are engulfed with wealthy Arabs ready to use their wealth to bring Asian football to level corresponding to the countries in Europe and South America. The allowing from FIFA to let Qatar host despite never having qualified for the World Cup has been described by many as yet another idiosyncratic decision by the football federation already on it’s knees from the corruption and bribes that have put chaos to the functioning of FIFA.
As Asian football grows it requires many necessities to compete with it’s rival continents Europe and South America. The necessity that has taken most interest from the Western world is how clubs in Asia are investing their money in the transfer market.
The main acquisition was made by Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua. In the close season they bought Ivorian striker Didier Drogba. The front man made history in his very last game by scoring the equalising goal to stifle opponents Bayern Munich in their own ground and crush their dreams and derive the match in Chelsea’s favour to bring history to the west Londoner’s by winning the first Champions League in the clubs history.
Drogba was out of contract at the London club and ventured for a new experience in Shanghai mainly due to the large wage package which he will use to fund his charity the Didier Drogba foundation. Drogba is accompanied at Shanghai with former clubmate Nicolas Anelka and playmaker Giovanni Moreno. The trio could soon be joined by Juan Roman Riquelme who ended his love affair with Boca Juniors in tears and is now looking for a new club. Riquelme would add an exuberant creative edge to the Chinese League. Managed by Argentine Sergio Bastista, a deal looks likely but will only occur until Shanghai sell one of their five designated foreign players to make room in the squad for Riquelme.
Drogba’s transfer could have potentially revolutionised Asian football with African footballers becoming a trend in the Chinese League. Newcomers include Frederic Kanoute (Beijing Guoan) Seydou Keita ( Dalian Aerbin) and Yakubu Aiyebeni ( Guangzhou R & F ). Despite the recent influx of African players – Brazilian imports will remain the most popular across Asia. Brazil’s booming economy is targeting the Asian markets obsession with football following the success of present FC Porto forward Hulk who enjoyed a successful period at Tokyo Verdy scoring fourty-two goals in fifty-three matches. As a result the Brazilian’s have from this season taken advantage of Asia’s fixation by hosting a Saturday night match in the Brazilian championship so Japanese and Chinese fans can see the next Ronaldos and Ronaldinhos live.
“Big clubs like Man.United, Milan and Barcelona have scouts everywhere and get whoever they,” explains FIFA agent, Wagner Ribeiro.”But peripheral markets, like Asia will get to know good players they can take. And their money is as good as the Europeans”.
Bringing foreign players into Asia will only benefit the native players, setting higher playing standards therefore improving the level of competitiveness from native players. Take the European Championships final for example which was contested by between Spain and Italy. Both finalist boast strong traditions of producing quality players from the youth ranks. These players were then developed in the competitive leagues consisting of top clubs who are supported by some of the finest foreign players which ultimately improves playing standards and overall quality of players. I predict Asian leagues will have a similar impact in time which will in turn benefit the International sides.
These top players need to be coached and who better to do so than World Cup winning manager Marcello Lippi who coaches Guangzhou Evergrande and Alberto Zaccheroni who coaches the Japan national team. Lippi is no stranger to dealing with prima donna players balancing their massive egos with their equally full bank accounts. he has had his hands full with Dario Conca who’s annual salary is a staggering £6.4m. Lippi can take some solace in his sides recent purchase of Lucas Barrios from Borrusia Dortmund – a deal which underlines the sides eagerness not just to sign expensive talent but to ensure they capture players at their peak of playing ability.
To conclude I must again refer to the player that has truly revolutionised Asian football. Park Ji-Sung is the finest footballer ever to come out of Asia setting new records (such as being the first Asian to play in three semi finals of Champions League) and played a starring role in Manchester United’s four Premier League titles since his arrival. If Asian football is to expand and achieve it’s promising goals then they need to follow the lead of Park, who is still showing promise after being signed by Queens Park Rangers.