Forgot Password

 

Register

 

Create your Connect ID

This will allow you to login to all DStv websites & applications




or
Login using
x

Email Reset

 




Loading...
Loading Live Scoring...
*All times CAT (GMT+2)

Football | International

Didier Drogba © Reuters Images

Drogba puts China on the map



Didier Drogba has opened up a world of opportunity in China and blazed a trail for other senior stars as the wealthy Asia-Pacific region becomes an increasingly hot football destination.

The ex-Chelsea striker remains the headline act after a year that also saw Nicolas Anelka, Marcello Lippi and Alessandro Del Piero head east, with even David Beckham linked with a move to Australia or China.

Japan's Shinji Kagawa made a breakthrough at Manchester United, but moves in the other direction are catching attention as economic imperatives help raise the profile of Asian football.

Many questioned whether Drogba could ride out the culture shock of Shanghai Shenhua, but the Ivorian, nicknamed "Devil Beast" by admiring fans, rose above boardroom turmoil at his new club and looks set to stick around next season.

"Wait for me, I'll be back," Drogba told the Oriental Sports Daily, as he left Shenhua's Hongkou Football Stadium after their final match in November.

Anelka was the pioneer when he joined Shenhua at the start of the season, but Drogba's move, shortly after his heroics in the Champions League final, caused shockwaves with big European clubs queuing for his signature.

"I hope to help promote Chinese football around the world and further improve the links between China and Africa," Drogba said, when announcing the deal – for a reported $300 000 a week – in June.

Free-spending Guangzhou Evergrande snapped up World Cup-winning coach Lippi and Borussia Dortmund striker Lucas Barrios in their quest for Asian glory, but had to be content with a domestic league and cup double.

And Australia's A-League pulled off a coup when Sydney FC secured the services of Italian great Del Piero. Ex-England forward Emile Heskey has also been a hit at Sydney's near-neighbours, the Newcastle Jets.

Such purchasing power meant Australia and China were tipped as top of the list when Beckham announced his departure from LA Galaxy, with the intention of playing for one more club before retiring.

The Asia effect was in evidence elsewhere with the Thai league luring former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and even Malaysia, notorious for its match-fixing scandals, attracting ex-English Premier League players.

South Korea's Ulsan Hyundai won Asia's team, coach and player of the year awards after their unbeaten run to the AFC Champions League title, rounded off in swashbuckling style with a 3-0 win over Al Ahli in the final.

Coach Kim Ho-Gon masterminded a competition-record nine straight wins and winger Lee Keun-Ho earned Asia's top individual honour, as Ulsan earned a spot at the Club World Cup and helped bury the K-League's corruption woes in the process.

Kagawa left Borussia Dortmund mid-year to become Manchester United's first Japanese player, and he quickly became a hit before being sidelined by a knee problem.

Asian champions Japan were the form international team and have one foot in the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil after winning four out of five games so far in the last qualifying round.

Off the pitch, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) struggled with the fall-out of president Mohamed bin Hammam's suspension over corruption claims but there was a breakthrough when the body announced leadership elections next year.

Caretaker leader Zhang Jilong, pledging a "new era of transparency" looks favourite to secure the post fulltime at the body's Congress, due by the end of April, where bin Hammam's Fifa executive committee seat is also up for election.

Indonesia remain under the threat of sanctions over a rebel league which has split the country's football establishment, while Singapore and Thailand, with six titles between them, will contest Southeast Asia's AFF Suzuki Cup final.

Shop

Gerrard: My Autobiography
Steven Gerrard is a hero to millions, not only as the inspirational captain of Liverpool FC, but as a key member of the England team.
R161.00
Rafa: My Story
Revelatory memoir from the greatest sportsman in the world today.
R182.00
Mitre Monde Soccer Ball - White
Voted as one of the UK's favourite match balls
R219.00


Comments

More expert analysis and opinion from Sport24
The opinions expressed by Sport24 experts and bloggers are theirs alone, and do not necessarily represent those of SuperSport

Sports Talk



Chima Emmanuel Aguma
The diamond is United's best friend
United’s recent spending raised questions on how the players would fit in to an XI. They were...

Neil Tovey
A striking concern
After Bafana Bafana drew a blank against Nigeria in Cape Town last week, our national striking woes...

Dr Errol Sweeney
Ref’s decisions to be challenged?
I read recently that Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, the current Fifa president, is considering a move which...

Segun Odegbami
Worried, frustrated, angry and excited
Let me state it up front - I am worried, frustrated, angry and exited, all at once!

Carol Radull
Was Arsenal playing football?
What on earth was that? What was that game Arsenal were playing in Germany on Tuesday night?

Calvin Emeka Onwuka
The pressure is on at Man United
By the time the summer transfer window closed in Europe, Manchester United had spent heavily. Times...