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Rabu, 10 Agustus 2011

Asian Footballers Make a Mark in Bundesliga

Back in the day Cha Bum-kun was a legend. The South Korean played more than 100 times for his country, scoring a record 55 goals. For good measure the International Federation of Football History and Statistics named him the Asian Player of the Century.

But what made Cha a very special player was that he was perhaps the first Asian to make any kind of impact in Germany’s the Bundesliga. He moved to Darmstadt in 1978, then to Eintracht Frankfurt before finally hanging up his boots with Bayer Leverkusen in 1989. He would have been more familiar with players like Kevin Keegan and Andreas Moller than his own Korean teammates.

His son, Cha Du-Ri, was born in Frankfurt while dad was playing there, and spent most of his playing career there.

Today more than a dozen Asians are earning a living in the Bundesliga. And just like the Cha pair, they are active with some of the biggest teams in the country.

Bundesliga champion Borussia Dortmund has Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa pulling the strings. The 22-year-old was at the heart of last season’s triumph, netting eight goals in 18 games and reportedly attracting the attention of Arsenal during the summer.

Bayern Munich of course has had its own Asian players in the past, including the short-lived but well-remembered Iranian striker Ali Daei.

The current vintage boasts another Japanese, Takashi Usami. The 19-year-old attacking midfielder has joined the Bavarian giants on a season-long loan with a view to signing a full-time contract if all goes well.

Jong Tae-se has to have one of the more intriguing backgrounds of any player in the world, not just Germany. He was born in Japan to South Korean migrants. He first made his name as a footballer playing for Kawasaki Frontale, but he grabbed a different kind of headline when he decided to apply for a North Korean passport enabling him to play for the closed state.

He made his debut for North Korea in 2007, scoring four goals against Mongolia, and has since played 28 times, scoring 15 goals.

Whatever the nationality, VfL Bochum must have liked what it saw from the 27-year-old striker during the 2010 World Cup because it signed him and he repaid the club’s faith by hitting a credible 10 goals in his first season for the second-division said.

Shao Jiayi, 31, is very likely the longest-serving Asian in the Bundesliga. After initially impressing for Beijing Guoan, the Chinese midfielder moved to 1860 Munchen when he was just 22 years old. After four years in the south of the country he headed east to join Energie Cottbus and now plays for MSV Duisburg in the second division in the heart of the Ruhr.

It wasn’t that long ago when Germany would scout for Asian players in Iran. Not now. It says much about the improvement in standards in Japan, South Korea and China that players are able to carve out a career for themselves in such an alien environment.

It speaks volumes for the players’ mental strength and desire. It cannot have been easy for Cha when he first made the leap but he blazed a trail and others have benefitted from his experiences.

Unfortunately we are unlikely to see any players from Southeast Asia showing such bravery anytime soon. The familiarity of local conditions, the closeness to family and the relatively high salaries all conspire to keep players here and make an overseas move seem like a leap too far.

source: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/football/asian-footballers-make-a-mark-in-bundesliga/458473

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