Gates open for Asian players in China

Gates open for Asian players in China

Asian Football Feast’s Chinese correspondent Zhang Bin looks at the increase in Asian players plying their trade in the Chinese Super League.

Ever since the AFC applied the “3+1″ rule in 2009, it has started a trend of Asian players moving amongst the various Asian leagues.

Ahn Jung-hwan in action for Dalian Shide

At the beginning of CSL 2011, the 16 CSL clubs signed 23 “AFC Players”, with South Korea and Australia two of the biggest player exporters to the CSL after Brazil.

Starting from 2009, following the AFC’s steps, the CSL allowed teams to sign an additional foreigner from an AFC nation on top of the four regular foreigner players (4+1 policy).

South Korea is one of the main sources of CSL’s foreigner players. Since the middle of 2000’s more and more Korean players are coming to the CSL, but most of them are second tier players or players that are already past their best.

Things changed when Korea legend Ahn Jung-hwan decided to move to Dalian Shide in March 2009 after he couldn’t negotiate a deal with A-League club Sydney FC. Ahn was keen to join Sydney as he very much preferred the lifestyle in Australia, but as he had to wait until August for the new season of A-League, he decided to join Dalian for a short-term loan.

Ahn signed a three-month contract worth USD100,000 with Dalian Shide and after the three months he decided to stay at the north-east China club and extended his contract for another four months for an extra USD200,000. He went on to score 6 goals in 26 appearances - not a bad performance considering his failure in K-League in 2007 and 2008.

The man once called Asia’s Beckham was trying hard to earn a spot in Korea’s WC 2010 squad. In 2009 and 2010 CSL season he showed fans and media that he still had the skills, and was selected for Korean National team.

As a result of media reports following Ahn Jung-hwan’s success, more and more Korean players have viewed CSL as another stage for success.

Dalian Shide’s South Korea coach Park Seong-hwa explained the trend, “Ahn Jung-hwan’s success has encouraged other Korean players to come to CSL.”

There were some excellent Korean signings in the pre-season market, includes Cho Won-hee and Kim Jin-kyu, who both played at the 2006 World Cup for Korea; Cheon Kwang-jin and Ko Jae-sung, both backbones of Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma’s 2010 ACL Champions squads; and Kwon Jip, former Korean Youth team captain.

Meanwhile, Australian players also play important part in CSL, since the Success of Joel Griffiths and Ryan Griffiths with Beijing Guo’an. One of the reason is Aussie players are cheaper than South American and European players, but the most important factor is the playing style. Most of Australian players are big, physically strong, diligent and have good teamwork, which are the shortcoming of Chinese players.

Chengdu Blades head coach Lawrie McKinna is the first Australian to coach a CSL club, and when asked about why Australia players are becoming popular in China, he said: ”I’ve only been here a couple of weeks, but it’s clear to me that the Chinese love the Aussie attitude most of all.”

“There’s a drive, and an honesty, which appeals to them. A lot of foreigners can be high maintenance but what you see is what you get from the Aussies, and they like that.”

The CSL also provide a more professional competition as well as established facilities for Aussie players. Lawrie McKinna was “shocked” by the training centre that Chengdu Blades has, yet Chengdu is regarded as one of the smaller clubs in China.

A list of AFC players in CSL 2011

From Australia
CB Adam Griffiths (Hangzhou Greentown)
FW Joel Griffiths (Beijing Guo’an)
LB Dean Heffernan (Liaoning Whowin)
DF Dino Djulbic (Shanxi Chanba)
FW Bruce Djite (Jiangsu Sainty)
DF Alex Wilkinson (Jiangsu Sainty)
FW Brendon Santalab (Chengdu Blades)
DF Adam Kwasnik (Chengdu Blades)
FW Gyawe Jonas Salley (Chengdu Blades)

From South Korea
MF Kwon Jip (Tianjin Teda)
FW Ahn Jung-hwan (Dalian Shide)
MF Jeon Kwang-Jin (Dalian Shide)
CB Kim Jin-kyu (Dalian Shide)
DF Kim You-Jin (Liaoning Whowin)
MF Lee Joon-Yeob (Henan Jianye)
DF Ko Jae-Seong (Nanchang Hengyuan)
DF Cho Won-Hee (Guangzhu Evergrande)

From Japan
FW Seiichiro Maki (Shenzhen Ruby)
MF Takashi Rakuyama (Shenzhen Ruby)

From Uzbekistan
MF Anzur Ismailov Husanovich (Changchun Yatai)
MF Ildar Magdeev (Qingdao Jonoon)

From Lebanon
MF Roda Antar (Shandong Luneng)

From Syria
CB Abdulkader Dakka (Shanghai Shenhua)

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