Within the cultural, racial and political melting pot that is Asian football, the region of South East Asia often finds itself forgotten. The likes of Japan, South Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia have over the years made multiple appearances at World Cups and have won numerous Asian Cups. Meanwhile, Australia’s membership of the South East Asia Football Federation (ASEAN) notwithstanding, South East Asia has been under-represented. But while westerners associate that corner of the world with anything but football, a sleeping giant appears to be awakening. Keen to known for more than just a war, Vietnam is on the rise.
By Kieran Ahuja
You may or may not have heard of Hakeem Al-Araibi. His story has been told by myriad publications, football or otherwise, over the last few weeks in an effort to raise awareness of his story, which is one of tragedy, oppression and violence.
When you think of Asian club football, you could be forgiven if you presumed that it is contested by a huge majority of Asian-born players. When Saudi Arabia announced their squad for the 2018 World Cup, every single player was domestic-based, with the majority being players of Al Ahli or Al Hilal.
The precedent is fairly similar across the continent, so when a European pitches up in the kit of his team, eyebrows are raised. That happened in Tehran, when Éamon Zayed became the most unlikely continental hero in a match between Tehran clubs Esteghal and Persepolis in 2012…
By Kieran Ahuja
The nearly century-old Boro Match, Bengali for ‘Big Match’, regularly attracts attendances of nearly 100,000.
On December 29th, 49,863 people, mostly comprised of enthusiastic Glaswegians, turned out at Ibrox to watch the Old Firm Derby, a rivalry between Celtic and Rangers that is deeply ingrained in Scottish culture. It’s an incendiary match marked by passionate sectarianism, fierce rivalries and a delicate sense of pride; it’s the sound of tens of thousands of Scottish fans roaring until their voices crack as 22 players (often less by the end) push, shove and barge each other whilst vaguely adhering to the rules of football.
By Andrew Misra
The Asian Cup rolls around this January and it’s something that, generally speaking, we know very little about in the UK. As with the Africa Cup of Nations, we’ve only really become aware of it due to the competition depriving us of high-profile players from the Premier League for about a month.
UAE club Al Ain made the FIFA Club World Cup final on Saturday, where they faced the biggest club in the world, Real Madrid. The score aside, it was a historic day for football in the UAE, and also football in the rest of the surrounding nations.
For many nations in the world, football is the bread of life. When you think of football in South America, for example, it is easy to imagine children playing football without organisational structure: walking down to the local park with a battered football and playing football, just for the sake of it. Not necessarily with friends, not even with goals, just kicking a ball about, because that’s a way of life. In some Asian nations, it is the same. For football fans worldwide, football is a way in – it allows fans to enter a world that they become embroiled in. For other nations, it is a way out – a way to escape from every day life, a footnote to society.