Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A-League coaches start search for Asian talent

Footballers from Asian countries are already making an impact in Australia's new elite A-League, AAP reports. Queensland Roar, Adelaide United and the New Zealand Knights have eached signed Asian players ahead of Australia's entry into the Asian Football Confederation from 1 January 2006.

The Roar was the first and most active A-League club in thinking outside the square and seeking Asian players - signing Korean international midfielders Tae-Yong Shin and Hyuk-Su Seo. Adelaide has former Chinese international striker Shengqing Qu as its marquee player, while the vibe is strong that the Knights may have signed a potential star in Chinese under-23 midfielder Xiaobin Zhang.

Roar coach Miron Bleiberg became interested in recruiting Asian players three years ago on a visit to Brisbane's John Paul College to watch the school's team - which contained several South Koreans. "I was very impressed - they were very systematic, very organised and played very attacking football," said Bleiberg, who was coaching the Queensland Lions side in the state league at the time.

"I thought if the kids can play like this we should look at signing some players. Not long after this, Korea made the semi-finals of the (2002) World Cup and it made up my mind that Koreans had something to offer us."

Bleiberg made contact with player agents representing South Koreans, and once the Roar was confirmed as part of the A-League, set about giving his team a decidedly Asian feel. Attacking midfielder Shin and holding midfielder Seo look set to be regular first-teamers under Bleiberg, with the Roar's decision to "go Asian" looking a masterstroke now.

Since Queensland's decision to recruit from Korea, the nation's biggest car company Hyundai has become the A-League's major sponsor - giving the Roar a commercial leg-up no other club in the competition has. "Now it looks that from a commercial point of view, this is not a bad idea," Bleiberg said.

"If we happen to qualify for the Asian Champions League, it will help us in having some local knowledge and popularity-wise."

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