The Chinese Diaspora is said to number upward of 40 million people, comfortably thirteen times the size of Uruguay, a country whoose national football team are currently perching quite happily at fourth place in the Fifa World Rankings. Yet while the Diaspora has a prominent cultural presence in many countries, there has been a notable lack of sportspeople of Chinese descent, particularly in Western countries where the image of Chinese person is about as stereotypical as you can get.
However there have been significant strides forward in the USA. In the NFL, the emergence of the fully-Chinese blooded Ed Wang is seen as ground-breaking, with the same being said for the NBA’s Jeremy Le in. Lin has incidentally spoken of the negative racial stereotyping which he claims contributed to his going undrafted out of college. However in soccer, this could all be set to change, with a number of Chinese players emerging around the globe, including Lam Zhi Gin (Germany), Jonathan Lao (Canada), and arguably Tan Long in the MLS. With the domestic game still reeling from various match fixing and disciplinary scandals, national team coach Jose Camacho could be forgiven for wistfully casting his eyes abroad. In particular, there are two British-born youngsters who could very plausibly become stars of Chinese football in the future which Camacho would do well to have a look at.
When Nico Yennaris made his Premier League debut for Arsenal, aged just 18 against champions Manchester United on January 22, a match commentator noted that he was half-Korean. As has been stated elsewhere on this website, Yennaris is half-Chinese, and has been vocal about this fact. This innocent mistake in many ways embodies Yennaris’ overlooked rise. Yennaris has quietly improved this season, appearing in all of Arsenal’s three domestic competitions, as well as making the bench in the Champions League. Against United, Yennaris turned in an accomplished performance, getting forward well and stifling Nani effectively. Indeed, he looked dangerous with his crossing from the right-hand side and was subsequently praised by captain Robin Van Persie. The return from injury of Bacary Sagna will impede Yennaris’ chances of a sustained run in the first team, but his performances can only have underlined his talent to Arsen Wenger, who handed Yennaris a contract extension back in December. While the London-born youngster has been playing right-back of late, he is fundamentally a central midfielder and has been compared to Barcelona’s Argentine midfielder Javier Mascherano. Yennaris has caps at England U’19 level, but is undeniably in touch with his Chinese roots, wishing his followers a ‘Happy Chinese New Year’ last week on Twitter.
The second British-born Chinese youngster who is also making waves at a top-four club English club is Manchester City’s Sean Tse. A strong and a formidable centre- half, Tse has drawn comparisons to Chelsea and England’s John Terry and is highly regarded by the City management team. He has youth caps up to U’17 level for Ireland but has stated (through the wonderful medium of twitter) that he would happily declare for the People’s Republic, if he were asked. He was also a member of the City youth team that swept all before them at the Al-Ain International Championship in 2010. While we may not see him in the first team soon, he is a youngster with bags of potential and could become a stalwart of the Chinese national team in the future.
Whether Camacho is aware of these two talents is unknown, but it would be foolish not to at least make contact with them both. After the failure of World Cup qualification, the Chinese national team now has a period in which new players can be tried without pressure. With the Chinese nation on the rise as a whole, there has never been a better opportunity to approach talented, foreign-born players that may allow China to excel in the future. Here’s hoping.
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