Buyer beware:The truth about fancy foreigners

While European teams squabble for best in the business, managers in Asia have to be careful of players spinning a tale.

UD Levante vs Getafe CF
Dani Guiza arrived with Spain caps but there are less experienced players trying their luck in Malaysia Super League [EPA]

The description of the Brazilian trialists was less than flattering: short, fat and unfit.

In other words: a Luis Ronaldo mini-me – minus the talent.

The transfer window for much of the footballing world closes at the end of January. But in Malaysia, squads had to be finalised in December ahead of the 2013 Super League season.

“I was told they’d once played for Flamengo, but they were short, fat and slow”

Perak coach Azraai Khor Abdullah

So the trio from Brazil was hoping to catch the eye of new Perak coach Azraai Khor Abdullah, who was looking to freshen up his squad.

“I was talking to an agent about trying out a central defender from Oman,” he said.

“The next thing I knew these three Brazilians turned up, hoping to earn foreigners’ contracts with us.

“But pretty quickly, it was clear that they were lacking fitness and hadn’t played for a year or two, as much as they tried to impress us with their fancy skills in a trial match. I was told they’d once played for Flamengo, but they were short, fat and slow.”

Needless to say, the flabby ‘Flamengoans’ were quickly turned away – and began targeting another unsuspecting club.

Spinning a yarn

The coaches in Southeast Asia have heard it all before from agents hoping to pick up a quick buck.

The middlemen will try any kind of spin to get their clients a look-in.

“He’s a former youth international… he’s a midfielder in the mould of Luis Figo… he played in the same Everton youth team as Wayne Rooney… he was once on the books of Manchester United.”

In agent speak, this may mean: “He played in an under-10s carnival in Fiji when he was on holiday there … his gelled-up hairstyle looks a bit like Figo’s… Rooney was the best player in that Everton youth team and my guy was a bench-warmer… he was written down in the books of Manchester United as someone never to sign after he flunked a trial.”

Unfortunately, many sub-standard players are still trying their luck in the AFC region. And the scary thing is that some of them end up landing lucrative contracts.

             Arriving with credentials: Aleksandar Duric (L)  is still impressing in Singapore’s S-League at 42 AFP]

Of course, the big names have come too – but after less than a month, it’s too early to say if the one-time superstars are past their prime or not.

Southern Malaysian club Johor Darul Takzim signed ex-Spain striker Dani Guiza and former Italian under 21 representative Simone Del Nero. Peter Butler’s T-Team picked up 4-cap Dutch international George Boateng and ex-Republic of Ireland striker Caleb Folan, both of whom once played in the English Premier League. All are on the wrong side of 30.

But age may only be a number if you look at the continuing success of 42-year-old Aleksandar Duric (a Bosnian-born naturalised Singaporan) in Singapore’s S-League and 36-year-old Marlon Alex James, the Saint Vincent striker who powered second tier ATM to the 2012 Malaysia Cup final.

The likes of Duric and James had more than handy careers before arriving in Southeast Asia. But many others, with far skinnier football CVs and creatively edited showreels, have also been able to pick up contracts. Some of them then parlay their new-found profile into Asian management and media careers or set-up businesses of questionable repute.

The term ‘former international’ will also be loosely used, even if that individual only wore the colours of his country in Football Tennis or Subbuteo.

Although most outrageous claims can be easily checked these days via the web, it is still all about the way you build someone up.

Here’s an example: doesn’t this import sound like he deserves a try-out at an Asian club?

“Pacy fullback who played the first division in the US against ex-African junior internationals and earned an MLS trial versus the Colorado Rapids. Was once coached by ex-Premier League manager David O’Leary and was in the same team as English and Scottish legends.”

Do you want to know who this is?

It’s your humble columnist, who talks a far better game than he plays and is about as average a park footballer that you’ll ever meet.

True, my team did compete in the top-flight in suburban Atlanta and one of the better sides that we faced had ex-Zambian youth players. In 1998, I was part of a Media XI versus the Colorado Rapids game at Denver’s Mile High Stadium (a 6-a-side kick and giggle really) and O’Leary ‘coached’ me for an afternoon – plus Ray Wilkins and Andy Gray who were also visiting Asia on a Premier League promotional tour– in another social game in Singapore in 2002.

It all goes to show that it’s a case of ‘buyer beware’ when it comes to imports in Asia – from Brazil, Australia or elsewhere.

* Jason Dasey is an Asia-based football broadcaster and host of The Football Fever Podcast (, a weekly soccer show with an Asia-Pacific perspective. Twitter: @JasonDasey

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Source: Al Jazeera