World Football: The Middle-Eastern Revolution
When talking about football in Asia, the first thing a person thinks about is Ji-Sung Park, Keisuke Honda and even Tim Cahill. What people fail to notice is the growing Middle Eastern presence in the beautiful game.
Talking to Europeans about football in West Asia, they laugh and say, they’ll never beat us. But that’s exactly what happened at Abu Dhabi earlier this year. Iran shocked the world by beating the mighty Russians at literally the last kick of the ball. Team Melli scoring at the 90th minute that February evening broke Russian hearts, but moreover marked the beginning of a new Era. The era of a Middle Eastern Revolution in World football. About a month later, Qatar drew with Russia marking a new high in Arab football.
Iran has now employed Ex-Real Madrid boss Carlos Quieroz as their new manager, while Saudi Arabia have availed Frank Rijkaard’s services. The former Barcelona and Galatasaray man is supposed to be costing around 10 million dollars a year. Argentine footballing legend Maradona is also coaching in the Middle East. He has recently taken charge of Dubai basd Al-Wasl, and has been promised a free role and a massive budget.
But football, like every other sport is not only about on field incidents. Its also one of the world’s biggest business. In September 2008, a member of the Abu Dhabi Emirates and the current Deputy Prime minister of the UAE, Sheikh Mansour bought Eastlands giant Manchester City. This takeover was immediately followed by a big name signing in the form of Robinho, literally grabbing him from the gates of Stamford Bridge for a then record fee of 32.5 million pounds. This was probably the first show of monetary strength of the Arab investor’s in World football. Today though, it is general knowledge.
Malaga has been purchased by a member of the Qatari Royal Family while Getafe CF is being renamed Getafe Team Dubai by its new owner Sheikh Maktoum.
Catalan Giants FC Barcelona also recently cashed in on this sudden love for football when they signed a T-shirt deal known to be around 150 million euros with Qatar Foundation. The club which helped raise around 2 million dollars a year for Unicef, which was their main T-Shirt sponsor will now replace it with the Qatar Foundation logo. UNICEF will be relegated to the back of the jersey. Barcelona, a club with high ideals and a motto of “Més que un club” meaning “More than a club” has been criticised for this move and critics have called it “Just another club.”
So, I think the tag of struggling Asia should be rendered invalid, considering West and East Asia have made giant strides in World Football. Now, its more like struggling South Asia.