Thursday, April 28, 2011

Asia's best juniors on show in Colombia

The draw for the 2011 FIFA U20 World Cup was held today in Cartagena, Colombia.

Asia has four teams who qualified for the tournament courtesy of their results at last year's AFC U19 Championships. Those four teams are: DPR Korea, Australia, Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia.

Below is a list of the groups and games for the four Asian sides.

Group A (Bogota/Cali)
Korea Republic

Mali vs Korea Republic - 30 July @ 5:00pm - Bogota
France vs Korea Republic - 2 August @ 5:00pm - Bogota
Colombia vs Korea Republic - 5 August @ 8:00pm - Bogota

Group C (Manizales/Pereira)

Costa Rica

Australia vs Ecuador - 31 July @ 6:00pm - Manizales
Australia vs Costa Rica - 3 August @ 8:00pm - Manizales
Australia vs Spain - 6 August @ 5:00pm - Manizales

Group D (Armenia/Pereira)

Saudi Arabia

Croatia vs Saudi Arabia - 31 July @ 6:00pm - Armenia
Saudi Arabia vs Guatemala - 3 August @ 5:00pm - Armenia
Saudi Arabia vs Nigeria - 6 August @ 8:00pm - Pereira

Group F (Medellin/Cartagena)

Korea DPR

England vs DPR Korea - 29 July @ 2:30pm - Medellin
Mexico vs DPR Korea - 1 August @ 5:00pm - Medellin
Argentina vs DPR Korea - 4 August @ 5:00pm - Medellin

* All times are local (i.e. Colombia) times


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Asians Abroad - 22 - 26 April

The Football didn't stop for Easter, with dozens of Asian players involved in action over the weekend.

Below is a comprehensive list of those who did and didn't see action over the weekend.

Park Chu-young in action for AS Monaco
against Stade Rennes
Lee Chung-yong (KOR) played a full game for Bolton in their 2-1 win over Arsenal in the EPL

Ali Al Habsi (OMN)
played a full game for Wigan in their 2-4 loss to Sunderland in the EPL

Yuki Abe (JPN) played a full game for Leicester City in their 4-2 win over Watford in the Championship

Nam Tae-hee (KOR) was a 78th minute substitute for Valenciennes in their 1-1 draw with Sochaux in Ligue.1

Park Chu-young (KOR) played a full game for AS Monaco in their 1-0 win over Stade Rennes in Ligue.1

Jung Jo-gook (KOR) was an 82nd minute substitute for Auxerre in their 1-1 draw with Lens in Ligue.1

Daisuke Matsui (JPN) played a full game for Grenoble in their 1-1 draw with Chateauroux in Ligue.2

Song Jin-hyung (KOR) was substituted after 64 minutes for Tours FC in their 2-3 loss to Boulogne in Ligue.2

Lee Yong-jae (KOR) was a 90th minute substitute for Nantes in their 2-2 draw with Nimes in Ligue.2

Atsuto Uchida (JPN) was an unused substitute for Schalke 04 in their 0-1 loss to Kaiserslautern in the Bundesliga

Hao Junmin (CHN) played a full game for Schalke 04 in their 0-1 loss to Kaiserslautern in the Bundesliga

Ali Karimi (IRN) was a 62nd minute substitute for Schalke 04 in their 0-1 loss to Kaiserslautern in the Bundesliga

Kishi Yano (JPN) was an unused substitute for SC Freiburg in their 1-3 loss to Hannover 96 in the Bundesliga

Makoto Hasebe (JPN) was a 66th minute substitute for VfL Wolfsburg in their 4-1 win over FC Koln in the Bundesliga

Koo Ja-cheol (KOR) was an unused substitute for VfL Wolfsburg in their 4-1 win over FC Koln in the Bundesliga

Youssef Mohamas (LEB) played a full game for FC Koln in their 1-4 loss to VfL Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga

Tomoaki Makino (JPN) was an unused substitute for FC Koln in their 1-4 loss to VfL Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga

Shinji Okazaki harrasses Mladan Petric
during their clash with Hamburger SV
Shinji Okazaki (JPN) was substituted after 66 minutes for VfB Stuttgart in their 3-0 win over Hamburger SV in the Bundesliga

Son Heung-min (KOR) was an 80th minute substitute for Hamburger SV in their 0-3 loss to VfB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga

Shao Jiayi (CHN) was an unused substitute for Energie Cottbus in their 2-1 win over Erzgebirge Aue in 2.Bundesliga

Hajime Hosogai (JPN) played a full game for Augsburg in their 1-2 loss to Alemannia Aachen in 2.Bundesliga

Ken Asaeda (JPN) was substituted after 58 minutes for Hessen Kassel in their 0-0 draw with Stuttgarter Kickers in Regionaliga Sud in Germany

Maya Yoshida (JPN) played a full game for VVV Venlo in their 2-2 draw with Heerenveen in the Eredivisie

Robert Cullen (JPN) played a full game for VVV Venlo in their 2-2 draw with Heerenveen in the Eredivisie

Michihiro Yasuda (JPN) played a full game and scored an own goal in Vitesse Arnhem’s 2-4 loss to FC Utrecht in the Eredivisie

Ryo Miyaichi (JPN) played a full game for Feyenoord in their 3-1 win over PSV Eindhoven in the Eredivisie

Kazuo Homma (JPN) was substituted after 60 minutes for BFC Siófok in their 1-1 draw with Szolnoki Máv in Nemzeti Bajnokság I in Hungary

Yuto Nagatomo during Inter's game with Lazio
Yuto Nagatomo (JPN) played a full game for Inter Milan in their 2-1 win over Lazio in Serie A

Naoya Shibamura (JPN) was an unused substitute for Ventspils in their 1-0 win over FC Jūrmala in Virsliga in Latvia

Thaer Al Bawab (JOR) was substituted after 58 minutes for Gaz Metan Mediaş in their 2-0 win over Unirea Urziceni in Liga I in Romania

Keisuke Honda (JPN) was a 31st minute substitute for CSKA Moscow in their 1-1 draw with Tom Tomsk in the Russian Premier League

Kim Nam-il (KOR) played a full game for Tom Tomsk in their 1-1 draw with CSKA Moscow in the Russian Premier League

Odil Ahmedov (UZB) was substituted after 67 minutes for FC Anzhi Makhachkala in their 2-2 draw with Dinamo Moscow

Sanzhar Tursunov (UZB) played a full game for FC Volga Nizhny Novgorod in their 0-1 loss to Kuban Krasnodar in the Russian Premier League

Ki Sung-yueng (KOR) played a full game for Celtic in their 0-0 draw with Rangers in the Scottish Premier League

Akihiro Ienaga (JPN) was a 61st minute substitute for Mallorca in their 2-0 win over Getafe in La Liga

Javad Nekounam (IRN) played a full game for Osasuna in their 0-2 loss to Barcelona in La Liga

Abdullah Omar Ismail (BHR) was substituted after 84 minutes for Neuchâtel Xamax in their 2-2 draw with FC Basel in the Swiss Super League

Cha Jong-Hyok (DPRK) played a full game for FC Wil in their 3-1 win over FC Schaffhausen in the Swiss Challenge League

Maksim Shatskikh (UZB) played a full game for Arsenal Kyiv in their 0-3 loss to Dynamo Kyiv in the Ukranian Premier League

Kosuke Kimura (JPN) played a full game for Colorado Rapids in their 0-1 loss to Seattle Sounders in the MLS

Aziz Ibragimov (UZB) was a 54th minute substitute for Bohemians 1905 in their 3-1 win over Mlada Boleslav in the Czech Liga


Monday, April 25, 2011

The J. League's new frontier

Kashima's English language website
As the number of Japanese players leavings its shores to ply their trade overseas increases, so too does interest in the J. League.

But is the J. League, and by association its clubs, doing enough to satisfy those who cannot speak Japanese, especially the English speaking world?

Outside interest in the J. League is a relatively new phenomenon, at least on the scale it is today. For a country such as Japan, which for so long has only had need to worry about its own needs and desires, it is a phenomenon that is still taking time to get used to.

“Japan is still adjusting to the fact that the outside world is taking an interest in the J. League,” Sean Carroll, one of the leading English-language journalists to cover the game in Japan, explained.

“The country is accustomed to everyone with an interest being able to read, write and understand Japanese, so consideration of those who can't is naturally taking some time.”

Whilst most, if not all, clubs acknowledge the fact that interest in the J. League is increasing, few are really embracing this new frontier and trying to really capture this new market.

Only half of the 18 J. League clubs have a website available in English, and whilst these are slowly improving most could be described as basic at best. Although to be fair to the clubs, there is a bit of “chicken and egg” about the situation.

What comes first – a great English-language website to attract a new audience, or a large English-speaking audience that makes a great English-language website worthwhile?

Despite perceptions to the contrary, not all J. League clubs have endless pits of money, so the decision to develop an English-language website is an important one as it is requires a large investment by the club.

The same goes for head office.

The J. League provides an English-language website, which is updated weekly, and has an online newsletter that comes out every two months. They admit, however, that there is room for improvement.

“We understand that we have to improve our publications for the global community, but on the other hand, we have a limited budget,” the J. League’s Media Officer, Rina Iwamoto told Asian Football Feast.

“It is difficult issue for us.”

One of the major tools for keeping in contact and engaging with fans is via social networking sites such as Facebook and twitter. This is an area no club is yet to tap in to.

The views from the clubs on this issue are mixed. Asian Football Feast spoke to a few J. League clubs and put the question of social media (in English) to them.

Nagoya, the 2010 J. League Champions, will look
at social networking in English in the future
“Yes,” was the answer from Nagoya Grampus, who also added, “but the timeframe is not clear.”

Gamba Osaka, on the other hand, said they had no intention of going down that path.

“No, we are not interested in doing those services,” their Media Officer, Kana Koizumi, said.

To their credit though, they realise they need to improve their English-language options.

“Our club has the English site, but that is all. We know it is not enough,” Koizumi continued.

It is an area the J. League is looking to improve. They currently have a Facebook page that, on occasion, has information in both Japanese and English. They are looking to change it to show all information in English.

It is a step in the right direction.

Television remains the best way for people to follow the J. League, as without actually being able to view the live action, interest will quickly dwindle away. Only the hardcore will seek out live streams over the internet.

And this is where the increased level of interest in the J. League can be seen.

The J. League is now broadcast in over 100 countries across Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America and Africa.

Speaking exclusively to Asian Football Feast, James Clarke (Senior Vice-President, Content, World Sports Group) explained that the interest in the J. League is now genuine.

“Four or five years ago there were only a handful of broadcasters showing the matches and they often only showed matches when there was a famous player from their own country playing for a Japanese team,” Clarke said

“We now have a broadcast roster that covers most of the main football markets in Asia, Africa and Europe, and people are watching it for what it is: good, open, entertaining football.”

As with anything though, there are limitations. World Sports Group holds the international distribution rights for the J. League, but they are restricted by what the Japanese broadcasters provide.

Currently that is only one game per week, something WSG wants to change.

“The limitations are related to the number of matches made available by the broadcasters in Japan,” Clarke explained.

“We would like to show two matches or more per weekend - we’re working on it with our Japanese partners now.”

Urawa has many fans in Japan and across the globe
Another step in the right direction.

Australia’s move into the Asian Football Confederation has seen an increased level of interest in the J. League from the island nation, especially with the advent of the 3+1 rule which means more and more Australian’s are making their way to the J. League.

This season four Australian’s (Josh Kennedy, Alex Brosque, Eddy Bosnar and Matt Spiranovic) are on the books of J. League clubs, with another two (Mark Milligan and Jade North) playing for second division (J2) sides.

It is this increased level of involvement and interest that prompted Setanta Sports Australia to purchase the rights to the J. League at the start of the 2010 season.

When asked by Asian Football Feast why they purchased the rights to the J. League, Connor Woods, General Manager of Setanta Sports Australia & Asia, explained:

“The J. League is the number one domestic football league in Asia. With Australia’s move to join the AFC and participation of A-League clubs in the Asian Champions League, we believed there would be wider interest in the J. League in Australia as fans became more familiar with the teams.”

“Additionally, the change to the foreigners rule in the J. League to allow more AFC players has meant more Aussies are playing in Japan.”

Woods also wants to see the J. League clubs do more to engage their international fans, particularly in Australia.

“It is important for the J-League to ensure its matches are broadcast in Australia,” Woods said.

 “The J. League has an opportunity to establish itself as the most popular Asian league within other AFC countries. Teams such as Urawa Reds already have some following in Australia and should really be seeking to maximise their following.”

“We would love to see more engagement from the J. League clubs with the international opportunity and leveraging their Australian stars to grow their support in this country.”

They are sentiments that are no doubt shared by every J. League fan across the globe.

So to answer the original question - is the J. League doing enough to satisfy those who cannot speak Japanese? – the answer is probably. Just.

But in a world where our thirst for information gets bigger by the day, the J. League needs to keep pace with rising expectations.

Whether they do remains to be seen, but from what we’re seeing and hearing the signs look good.

Nagoya Grampus -
Sanfrecce Hiroshima -
Shimizu S-Pulse -


Friday, April 22, 2011

Is 2011 a rebound year for Chinese football?

Asian Football Feast's Chinese correspondent, Zhang Bin, takes a look at the latest reforms in Chinese Football aimed at making it a powerhouse of Asian Football.

The season opener at Galaxy Stadium between
Guangzhou Evergrande and Dalian Shide
After the first three rounds of the new season, the Chinese Super League has attracted 482,827 fans through the gates, with a average attendance of 20,188, the highest record since the league restructured from C-League Jia-A to CSL in 2004.

It might be a little early to say there will be a significant increase in CSL attendance, but attendance growth in recent years has generally been in an upward direction.

Guangzhou Evergrande moved their home games from the 30,000 seat Yuexiushan Stadium to Galaxy Stadium, which has a capacity of 60,161. Their attendances have increased from an average of around 20,000 to 40,000. The season opener against former CSL giant Dalian Shide attracted 53,100 fans and the match against Beijing Guo'an attracted a respectable 38,612 spectators in pouring rain.

Some unforeseen circumstances hit Hangzhou Greentown, forcing the club to move their home games from the Yellow Dragon stadium to the cities of Yiwu and Jiaxing.

The Yellow Dragon stadium will be refurbished this year for the 8th annual Disabled People’s Games to be held at the stadium this October. Hangzhou doesn't have a second stadium that complies with the CSL's standards for stadiums. Hangzhou's average attendance, as a result, has dropped from around 15,000 to 7,000.

The CSL was beset by scandal is 2010, with the scandal going right to the top of the CFA. Three former Vice-Presidents, together with some referees and players, have been arrested due to match fixing and gambling.

But things are getting better this year; the increase of attendance is a reflection of the image.

Fans now talk more about the game itself than the scandals. You could say the CSL is on a road to revival as it has a huge domestic football market, and probably the biggest football market in Asia.

Still a lot of hard work needs to be done.

At the top level the new look CFA, CSL Committee and the C-League Committee have draw up a series of plans in order to reconstruct the league system. It has placed a lot of demands on clubs.

The CFA published the “Access critera for professional league clubs”, the second edition of the regulations, with the first edition published in 2002. The criteria includes 19 provisos, including:

  • Clubs must be independent legal entities;
  • In youth team structure, Clubs must have U19, U17, U15 and U10 teams;
  • Clubs must have their own training base, with at least 4 standard pitches. At least one of them must have lights;
  • CSL clubs must invest at least 3m CNY (AUD$425,000) into youth development, and C-League D1 clubs must invest 2m CNY (AUD$286,000) into youth development;
  • Clubs should have their own stadium, if the stadium is loan from the local government the contract term should be at least three years;
  • CSL clubs must have a minimum season revenue of 30m CNY (AUD$4.3m), and C-League D1 clubs must have a minimum season revenue of 15m CNY (AUD$2.14m).

Starting from this season, the CSL requires a minimum season budget of 40 million CNY (AUD$6.1m) for each club. That means players may awardedca higher salary and clubs must spend more on facilities and youth academies.

Club owners are willing to splash the caash. It is reported the total season budget of the 16 clubs reached AUD$244.5m, with Guangzhou Evergrande announcing a season budget of AUD$76.2m, the highest in CSL history.

The CSL Committee forced all CSL clubs to participate in the CSL Reserve League.

The reserve team will play a day after the Super League encounter at the home teams' training center. It provides game time for second choice players, allowing them to keep match fitness. Priot to this season clubs were given the choice whether to compete in it or not.

The CFA published working targets for the next 5 years and a development plan for the next 10 years of Chinese Professional Football in February.

It wants to create a sounder base for the nation's domestic football by expanding the CSL to 18 teams, the second tier (C-League Division One) to 18 or 20, and the third tier (C-League Division Two) to 22 or 24 in the next three to five years.

Currently the CSL has 16 clubs; C-League D1 has 14 and will expand to 16 by next year. In order to have more teams in C-League D2, apart the 10 pro-clubs in 2010 season, the C-League Committee will allow U-21 teams of Provincial Sports Bureaus and U-21 team of CSL clubs (i.e. B Team) to compete in the new season of D2.

That will increase the number of teams to 22. The league will be split into two separate leagues - the North League and the South League. The top eight of each league (16 in total) qualify for the CFA Cup 2012; the top four teams of each league (8 in total) qualify for D2 Championship play-offs with the top two teams being promoted to D1. The third placed team will enter a Promotion/Relegation play-off against the bottom team of D1.

After the Chinese Football Congress, Vice-Chairman of Beijing Guo'an, Zhang Lu, commented on the expansion of D2, saying: "It is right to make the third-tier league the biggest one to make the foundation of Chinese football more solid."

The top division of amateur CAL National Championship will be re-established as the fourth level of the professional system - the C-League Division 3, which will be semi-professional.

The CFA announce Toshiba as the
major sponsor of the new FA Cup
The CFA has also announced it will re-launch the FA Cup, with Toshiba signing on as the major sponsor.

The FA Cup was abandoned in 2007 due to a schedule clash with Olympic Games preliminaries and a lack of sponsorship. The 2011 FA Cup will involve 30 clubs from the CSL and C-League D1, but in the long term it will be open to all of the professional clubs and the top teams of D3. Even amateur clubs or University teams will have the chance to enter the preliminary rounds.

The CFA believes the restart of the Chinese FA Cup and expansion of the professional league system will offer young players more opportunities to play at a higher level and provide the National Team a larger player pool.

The CFA and CSL Committee also plans to re-establish the League Cup, which will most likely involve all of the CSL and C-League D1 clubs, and will probably be named the Chinese Club Champions Cup.

The aim of these reforms is to make the Chinese Super League one of the best leagues in Asia.

Patience is still required, but it at least bring hope to fans and the media that Chinese football is on its way to a new life.


J. League set to return

They say a week is a long time in Football.

This is so because within those seven days, so much can change. Players can be injured or suspended and form can be lost, seemingly, in an instant.

In the week between the first round of the J. League and what was scheduled to be Round Two, a lot changed. The entire country changed.

Friday March 11 is a date that will live long in the memory of all Japanese people.

As J. League players across the country were readying themselves for a bumper weekend of J. League action, mother nature was readying herself to unleash all her fury.

47 days have passed since the completion of Round One and as J. League players across Japan ready themselves for action, they do so under vastly different circumstances to that of 46 days ago.

Kashima Antlers players are preparing for a home game – not in Ibaraki, but in Tokyo. Their stadium is still too badly damaged and will be out of action until, most likely, around June/July.

Vegalta Sendai prepare for an away game with Kawasaki Frontale without one of their big off-season signings – Marquinhos.

The Brazilian striker, signed from Kashima in the off-season, has left the club citing “emotional distress”, and after going through what he did in one of the hardest hit areas of the country, few can blame him.

It will be fascinating watching how Sendai respond. The team and the club now represent so much more than they did in the past – they’re now the flag bearers for a region still struggling to come to terms with what has happened. They represent life and hope in a region where those two things have been decimated by the disaster.

When the disaster struck, the Nagoya Grampus players were en route to Sendai for their round two clash with Vegalta. On Sunday they will again be on the road, this time visiting Saitama Stadium for what promises to be a classic encounter against Urawa Reds.

Nagoya, like many J. League clubs, have been busy raising much needed funds for the disaster relief. To date the club has raised over 15 million yen (AUD$180,000) through a collection among players and staff, as well as a charity match against Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

As they did in the ‘Team as One’ match, the players will be hoping their positive attitude will help those still struggling to recover.

"I wondered whether we should play football or not, but we are professional football players and supporters will come to see us play,” Nagoya's Yoshizumi Ogawa told

“I want to show them our positive attitude for them."

Across all games on the weekend players will wear black armbands and observe a moment’s silence as a tribute to the thousands who lost their lives in the disaster.

If a week is a long time in Football, then seven is an eternity, yet the events of March 11 still feel so recent. But while Football seemed so insignificant in the immediate aftermath of the disaster it now seems to have found its place, helping lead the way as a beacon of positivity.

Whatever the results on the weekend, the return of the J. League is a moment worth celebrating.

Kashima Antlers vs Yokohama F. Marinos
Omiya Ardija vs Kashiwa Reysol
Kawasaki Frontale vs Vegalta Sendai
Ventforet Kofe vs Vissel Kobe
Shimizu S-Pulse vs Avispa Fukuoka

Montedio Yamagata vs Cerezo Osaka
Albirex Niigata vs Jubilo Iwata
Sanfrecce Hiroshima vs Gamba Osaka
Urawa Reds vs Nagoya Grampus


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

FFA unlikely to strike gold with China

The Socceroos and China in action in a
World Cup Qualifier in Sydney in 2008
During the Gold Rush in the 1850’s, many Chinese people made the long journey to Melbourne and struck it rich on the goldfields.

It is unlikely, however, that the FFA will strike it rich if it goes ahead with a plan for three-match “Ashes” style series against China next year.

The idea is the brainchild of Geoff Prenter, the man who revolutionised the domestic cricket scene as the promoter of the domestic one-day competition. Earlier in his career Prenter founded Rugby League Week magazine, which is now a must-read for many Rugby League diehards.

It’s fair to say that most things he has touched have turned to gold. This, in my opinion, wont be one of them.

Given the tight international calendar, “series” tournaments simply are not possible, with international tournaments such as the AFC Asian Cup and FIFA World Cup filling those roles. National teams only have small windows in which to play their games, so three games in 15 days is not possible if you want to attract full-strength teams.

Aside from that the main reason the idea is destined to fail is the lack of history or rivalry with China.

I challenge any person to find any meaningful history between China and Australia, on or off the pitch that would allow this idea to capture the attention of the Australian public and make it a game people desperately want to win.

It doesn’t exist.

The Ashes works because of the history between the two countries, dating back to England’s colonisation of Australia in 1788.

The wider Australian public has little time, or respect, for Asian Football. It is still viewed by many as insignificant and “below” Australia. In fact many people express surprise that Asian nations even play Football, much less be any good at it.

In recent times Australia is developing a healthy rivalry with Japan, with classic contests at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and 2007 and 2011 AFC Asian Cups. If a series against any Asian side was to work it would be against Japan.

FFA CEO Ben Buckley has said the idea is “worth considering” given that it would grow the links between the two nations.

Prenter believes casino sponsorship worth $500,000 a game could be obtained, which is ironic because concept would be one massive gamble for the FFA were they to go ahead with it.

Given the FFA’s precarious financial situation they would be playing the ultimate game of Roulette – staking what little money they have on Red (literally).

It’s a gamble that the Chinese took back in the 1850’s when they packed up and headed for the Victorian goldfields in the hope of striking it rich. Many did.

The FFA, however, are unlikely to achieve that same outcome.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gates open for Asian players in China

Ahn Jung-hwan in action for Dalian Shide
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.

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)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Setanta confirms J.League schedule for April

Setanta Sports, the official broadcaster of the J. League in Australia, has confirmed the games they will broadcast in April once the J. League resumes later this month.

After the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan the J. League has been suspended, but the action will recommence on April 23.

There will be two rounds played before the end of April, and the two games Setanta will show are as follows:

Kawasaki Frontale vs Vegalta Sendai - Saturday 23 April (KO @ 2:55pm)
Cerezo Osaka vs Albirex Niigata - Friday 29 April (KO @ 3:55pm)

Don't forget that Setanta also broadcast a weekly highlights show, every Thursday night during the season. Be sure to tune in.


Friday, April 8, 2011

All eyes on the crowd in Korea

Asian Football Feast's Korean correspondent, Seungmin Lee, takes a look at one of the major talking points out of the first few weeks of the K-League season - the crowds.

Suwon's World Cup stadium is regularly
packed out for Suwon games

If you asked for a perspective of this season to any K-League fan before March, most of them surely would have answered that it is nothing special.

Even though K-League teams were crowned as the Champions of Asia three times in a row, the majority of Korean population follows Baseball teams with big corporation names like Samsung or LG. It’s impossible to have a footy chat except when you are talking about National team side.

Nevertheless, as much as the current league table, K-League attendance figures are unbelievable.

According to K-League official site, 193,959 people had gathered into 8 stadiums around South Korea on the opening weekend. Of course, there were improved marketing strategies, enhanced fixture scheduling and a good performance from the Korean National side in Asian Cup, but it was too much to say this is just because of those reasons.

The records didn’t stop there.

For the second round, 179,938 people had visited the eight games. What is really impressive is that those who are leading this trend are not the big clubs – Suwon Bluewings, Jeonbuk Hyundai, FC Seoul. They are the likes of Daejeon Citizens, Gyeongnam FC, Sangju Phoenix and Daegu FC, all of who experienced their stadium full like never had before.

Although K-League is enjoying their solid start, still there are pessimistic views about their ‘success’. This is partly because the Korean Professional Baseball League, their true competitor has yet to start their season. Most of Korean sport press is expecting the K-League will be drop as soon as the baseball league is started.

Sadly, their prediction seems to be true.

For Round Three, attendances across the league had shrunk to only 50,936. With those people, you can’t even fill out Celtic Park. Suddenly more than 100,000 people decided not to visit a K-League stadium.

Why? Nobody can answer but it is obvious – those figures in Rounds one and two don’t automatically mean the K-League became a success. It’s far more reasonable to look back at the end of the year and judge.

The attendance for Round Four was back in 6 digits, but it’s still hard to expect it is going to be the same for the rest of April.

As the Korean Pro-Baseball League starts, we will see whether it is going to be as K-League the hoped or whether the packed K-League grounds were just unusual scenes of March.

For the K-league, now is the time to set a new goal - to be the Champions of Asia off the pitch.