Asian footballers - the growing attraction
With Shinji Kagawa gradually finding his foothold in English football, the growing trend of Asian players moving out of the conventional fold has received a boon. The initiation of this process was mainly done during the 2002 World Cup which saw the glorious rise of a rookie South-Korean team which was able to reach the semi-finals of the tournament. The massive drive of buying Asian players to meet the needs of globally acclaimed clubs started during this period itself. It was not only South Korea that was at the centre of much attention, but even countries like Japan that were driven into action. Players like Junichi Inamoto, Shunsuke Nakamura, Ahn Jung-Hwan, Seol Ki-Hyeon and Park Ji Sung were all recruited from Asian clubs to serve their European counterparts.
The central focus of my article however, is not simply on Asian players making it to Europe and US, but seeing it from an entirely different perspective – the business perspective. The Asian consumer market is one of the largest and the fastest growing markets across the world. This rise hasn’t been an out of the blue phenomenon, but is the result of a long drawn effort. It started almost 50 years back with the land of rising sun (Japan) and gradually went on to be spread across countries like Korea, Thailand and Singapore. India and China joined in late but have been able to outrun them in terms of demand and consumption.
Now the purpose of my going into such details, is to bring to the reader’s attention, the fact that the Asian markets offer value for European and US investors (in this case the football clubs). Imagine the kind of attention that any Shinji Kagawa merchandise would be receiving in his home country, Japan. On United’s part, this could become a major break-through in terms of business. For a club that has been rumoured to be reeling under tremendous financial pressure, this could easily become a breaking news, perhaps even more important than the signing of Robin Van Persie.
Significantly enough, This trend hasn’t been limited to Asian players moving to Europe and US only. The ever-increasing money-power of the Asian market has lured world-class players to join Asian clubs as well. Players like Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba have all selected Asian clubs basically for money more than anything else.
While for Europe and US, this might be an opportunity to cash-in on the huge money flow streaming out of the Asian markets, for Asian countries, this means recognition at the global stage. At the end, thus, it can be said that it is basically a give and take policy and the beneficiaries are from both sides. As long as economies continue to flourish proportionally with football, the tradition is going to thrive.