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  Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 11:14 GMT
Asians finding their feet
Sun Jihai of Manchester City and China
Sun Jihai celebrates scoring for Manchester City
The last weekend of October proved that Asia's exports to Europe have made a quantum leap in terms of establishing themselves in some of the world's top domestic leagues.

Song Chung-gog of Feyenoord and South Korea
Song Chung-gog scored for Feyenoord
South Korean World Cup star Song Chong-gug got his first goal in the red and white colours of Feyenoord in the Dutch league, as his new team defeated Willem II 5-1.

Sun Jihai became the first Chinese player to find the net in the English Premiership as the wingback's header helped Manchester City to a 2-0 win over Birmingham City.

Rahman Razaei of Perugia and Iran
Rahman Razaei - on target for Perugia
In Italy Iranian international Rahman Rezaei was on the mark for Perugia in a 2-0 win over Modena, while Japan's Hidetoshi Nakata opened the scoring in Parma's 2-1 victory against Atalanta.

Nakata might be regarded as the man who opened the doors for Asian players in Europe, but in reality he heads a second generation. The real vanguard was the clutch of Iranians such as Ali Daei, Khodadad Azizi and Karim Bagheri who all moved to Germany after the 1996 Asian Cup.

Hidetoshi Nakata of Parma and Japan
Hidetoshi Nakata netted for Parma
However the current batch of players which includes Japan's Junichi Inamoto at Fulham and Shinji Ono at Feyenoord, Koreans Seol Ki-hyeon at Anderlecht and Cha Du-ri at Arminia Bielefeld together with the Chinese pair Li Tie and Li Weifeng at Everton

The difference is that since the 2002 World Cup a greater proportion of the Asians abroad have managed to establish themselves as regulars in their teams, something that even Nakata, particularly during his time at AS Roma, has struggled to do until recently.


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