A number of young Asian players from Japan, South Korea and China have been signed by different German Bundesliga clubs over the summer. And interestingly all of them before the 2010 FIFA World Cup in which Japan and South Korea showed their talent. But talent from the Far East isn't new to German football as Yasuhiko Okudera from Japan and South Korea's Bum Kun Cha played successfully in Germany in the 1970s and 80s, when professional leagues weren't even talked about in Asia.
Japan star Okudera played from 1977 to 1986 in Germany and won the league plus cup titles with 1.FC Cologne before playing for Hertha BSC Berlin and SV Werder Bremen. Cha was likewise a regular in his teams from 1978 to 1989 playing for SV Darmstadt 98, Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer 04 Leverkusen. Cha would go on to win the German Cup and the UEFA Cup twice. Even today football fans in Germany will remember these two names as they were the first to come and play in the Bundesliga from Asia plus they were also successful at their clubs.
Over the years a number of Japanese, Iranian, Chinese and South Korean players have come to Germany and have had mixed luck here. One of them was Bum Kun Cha's son Du Ri Cha, born in Germany, who left SC Freiburg for Celtic Glasgow this summer after playing the World Cup.
The latest trend of bringing in Asian talent started with current Japan captain Makoto Hasebe (26) who joined VfL Wolfsburg in January 2008. Many thought the defensive midfielder was being signed by then coach Felix Magath as a fringe player, but Hasebe was a key player for Wolfsburg when they won the German Bundesliga title in the 2008/09 season.
But the latest signings have been talented youngsters rather then established players, who all could play regularly for their respective club sides. But none of these players played any part in their national teams success in the World Cup.
First to mention is new Borussia Dortmund signing Shinji Kagawa (21, Japan). Kagawa was signed for 350,000 Euros from Cerezo Osaka. And he could be the real thing for Dortmund as the attacking midfielder can play on the wings as well as a No. 10. And in the pre-season he has been able to impress coach Juergen Klopp, playing an active part in BVB's good performances and even scoring some goals.
Dortmund's bitter rivals down the A40 motorway FC Schalke 04 have also signed two Asians. In January 2010 the royal blues surprisingly signed Junmin Hao (23, China) from Tianjin Teda on a free transfer and now have followed it up by signing Atsuto Uchida (22, Japan) from Kashima Antlers for 1,3 Million Euros. And coach Magath seems to trust Asian talent after having signed Hasebe while coach at Wolfsburg. Uchida is a classic right back with an urge to move forward, who is good in one-on-ones and can cross the ball. Chinese Hao is more of a utility player. He can play on both wings, but also as a back if needed and both players have been part of the starting eleven in pre-season. Magath expects a lot from his players and the same will be the case of Uchida and Hao, but both can also learn a lot from the experienced coach.
Last but not least there is new Hamburger SV teenage sensation Heung-Min Son (18, South Korea). The youngster impressed one and all with his displays in pre-season which reached its peek by scoring the winning 2-1 goal against FC Chelsea in a friendly, but only a minute later Son broke his foot and he will be out for a few weeks. But Son isn't new to Hamburg as he has been playing for the HSV Academy after joining them from FC Seoul's youth team and with his pre-season performances Son had come close to being part of the first team squad. For now he will have to recover and then see when coach Armin Veh gives him another chance.
And Asian talent has also made it into the 2.Bundesliga. The Wayne Rooney of Asia, North Korea's Chong Tese has signed a contract with VfL Bochum to help them regain their spot in the Bundesliga, while Japanese midfielder Takahito Soma, a former Asian Champions League winner, has joined FC Energie Cottbus from Portuguese side CS Marítimo Funchal on a free transfer.
Some might be surprised at the transfer of Tese, but the North Korean is born in Japan and has been playing his professional career at Kawasaki Frontale in the J-League. Tese has been signed by Bochum for 250,000 Euros and they have had good experiences with Asian players, so hope that Tese will score many goals for them.
And I sincerely hope that in the near future we will see an Indian playing in the Bundesliga. I know it won't happen tomorrow, but maybe in three to five years...