AMONG us football fans, social media was abuzz with this news: Neil Etheridge of Cardiff City FC becomes the first Southeast Asian player to win a match in the Premier League.
It might sound trivial to some, but the Philippine Azkals’ first choice goalkeeper seeing action in one of the top leagues and winning in one of the world’s biggest leagues does matter. It certainly matters not just to Cardiff City itself, which logged its first win after nine matches, but to all its fans, including Filipinos and fellow Southeast Asians who are now following Cardiff because of Etheridge.
It matters to Southeast Asian players and stakeholders who might draw inspiration from Etheridge as he performs at the top flight football in Europe.
And it definitely matters to a Southeast Asian who actually owns the club. That is correct -- a Malaysian tycoon who goes by the name of Vincent Tan bankrolls the newly promoted club. That in a way makes Cardiff a “Southeast Asian club.”
In an interview with Wales Online early this year, Tan revealed he’s poured some £190 million or roughly $246 million of his own money since taking the helm at the club. This is apart from his investment in two other European clubs: FK Sarajevo of Bosnia and K.V. Kortrijk of Belgium.
While his involvement in these clubs didn’t open the floodgates for Southeast Asians to see ply their trade in Europe, Tan now provides a vital connection between Europe and this bustling region.
What this means is that if Southeast Asia produces players who have the caliber to perform at club football’s highest levels, then someone closer to home will be keeping an eye on them and most likely give them that chance.
Tan himself said in the Wales Online interview he doesn’t want to spend a ridiculous amount on players. From this statement, we can deduce that if a Southeast Asian player can provide enough bang-for-the-buck for Cardiff, then why not?
And Tan isn’t the lone Southeast Asian who owns a European football club. There are Tan’s fellow Malaysian Tony Fernandes of Queens Park Rangers (English Football League Championship), Singaporean Peter Lim of Spain’s Valencia CF (Spanish La Liga), Thai Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha of Leicester City, Thai Narin Niruttinanon of Reading United (Championship), Thai Dejphon Chansiri of Sheffield Wednesday (Championship), and Indonesian Erick Thohir of Inter Milan (Italian Serie A).
October 23, 2018
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