As Heung-Min Son tucked home his second goal in Tottenham Hotspur’s recent Champions League win against Red Star Belgrade, he reaffirmed his position as one of the top players in England’s top flight.
It was his fifth goal in the Champions League, one of ten he has scored across 26 games in all competitions. This, despite having been sent off twice and spending two periods out suspended.
What is all the more puzzling is that Son is a rarity; an Asian player successfully competing in arguably the best league in the world. Even more concerning is that despite making up 7% of England’s population, only 11 British Asians have played professionally in the English game.
The Premier League is one of the most exciting divisions in the world, boasting a host of players from across the globe. It’s been defined by foreign imports, with the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Eric Cantona and Sergio Agüero household names in England. There’s certainly no problem with importing foreign talent; bwin News explains how Sergio Agüero hit a hattrick recently to become the leading foreign scorer in the league’s history. So why is it that so few Asian players have made their mark over there?
When a top player from this part of the world does go, there’s always a cynical feeling that it is a marketing ploy. These Football Times ponder whether the Chinese international was signed by top team Manchester United for his growing ability, or to tap into a potentially lucrative market slowly embracing the game.
It does seem that the two problems, successful imports and the lack of emerging British Asians, are linked. With so few Asian players appearing in the Premier League, those homegrown British Asians have nobody to look up to. At least that’s the thoughts of Kashif Siddiq, one of the few British Asians to play professionally.
“I think there are three different issues facing young British Asians in football,” said Siddiqi, who now runs Kashif Siddiqi Foundation to bring football into under-represented communities.
“Firstly, I think there is a lack of role models for families to push on because, realistically, if there are no role models why would people want their children to be in that sport? Secondly, I think there needs to be a lot more education on health and nutrition. Finally, there is still a massive lack of opportunities.”
There are signs the tide is turning. With Son’s impressive form for Spurs, the stereotypical notion of the past that Asian players were perhaps not good enough for the Premier League is being dispelled. Maya Yoshida is a solid part of the Southampton defence and perhaps one of the top twenty Asian players in the world right now. Yoshinori Muto is currently looking to help keep Newcastle in the division and Ki Sung-yueng is closing in on 200 appearances across three different clubs.
It is still far too few though, especially given the success of Asian players in other parts of the globe. Only when England’s top clubs begin to take Asian talent seriously will they be able to reap the rewards of young players of Asian origin on their own shores.
For more Asian Sports News, be sure to check out our other articles from across a wide range of different sports.