Asia Becoming The End of The Line

February 7, 2015 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment

Without taking anything away from the Asian Cup, it has yet to resonate with many football fans around the globe the way that the Copa America or even the African Cup of Nations does.

Currently in India for the Hockey India League, there was hardly any coverage of the Asian Cup, only the final was televised. In the newspapers the tournament was lucky to garner a paragraph. Whereas the African Cup of Nations has demanded a third to a quarter page. The English Premier League still dominates the papers while these tournaments are taking place along with La Liga.

One area Asia needs to be very careful is that it does not become the graveyard of footballers past; something it is heading down the path to become.

Many countries in Asia are now going to become trivia questions as to where superstars of the game played their last professional games. William Gallas, Robbie Fowler, Mario Jardel in the A-League and more recently the likes of Robert Pires, David James, David Treziguet and Alessandro del Piero in the Indian Super League. What is interesting is that in India they realised that del Piero was finished after four games, and he played no further part in the tournament, this was coming off a season in Australia with Sydney FC where he was still being lauded as great. Mind you he did pocket another million dollars!

China too is not helping. With lots of money they too are bringing in players who are quite simply past their best. Is it helping the profile of the League? Not really. Is it helping development of the game? Possibly, but it depends how involved these players are with helping develop the youth.

Nicolas Anelka at Shanghai Shenhua was a disaster, even though he did not end his career there. Although interestingly players of his ilk tend not to end up in China, it is the second string internationals rather than the top names. In fact if you look at the Chinese Super League in the main only Guangzhou Evergrande bring in players on the rise and sell them on for a profit. The rest bring in everyday reliable workmanlike footballers, as is evidenced by the Australian players who have gone to play in China; although the clubs in Australia need the money being offered in transfer fees.  The fact that very few of the top South Korean or Japanese players head to China confirms that their leagues are stronger and technically better. Maybe that is why their remain at the top of Asian football.

Will the big name players heading to Qatar and the other West Asian nations help raise the standard of their leagues or their national teams? History would say that is unlikely to be the case. It may help the profile of the league in the short term but not the standard of football.

Asia may be upset that Australia won the Asian Cup, as well as the Asian Champions League, and thus deprived one of their own a place at the Confederations Cup and the World Club Championship, but rather than sniping at Australia, the powers that be should be looking at what is the best way to raise the standard of football in the region, so that there are more teams vying for World Cup berths. More important is that the Asian Cup becomes a genuinely respected international tournament where more than four of five teams are expected to win the title, so that it does generate more international interest and respect.

The start of this may well be to cut back on allowing big name players to come and graze on their fields.

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