Ever since Dutch East Indies, as Indonesia was known before WW2, made debut in 1938 World Cup, Asian football has attracted a lot of attention worldwide. This is the story of the greatest strikers that continent produced over time.
LEE DONG-GOOK (South Korea)
A 6’2“ striker is quite an oddity for the East Asian footballing world, but that suited Lee just fine – his height, combined with his goalscoring prowess, made him a household name in South Korea over the past twenty years. He never quite found his feet in Europe – a six month barren loan spell at Bremen and a pair of cup goals for Middlesbrough are all he can show for it – but back home, Lee holds an all-time scoring record in both domestic K-League and the Asian Champions League. Add to that 33 scores in the national shirt, and we can justly call him a legend. Not bad for a guy once voted „worst striker in English football“, right?
ALI DAEI (Iran)
The mustachioed Daei came to worldwide prominence during the 1998 World Cup in France, but the truth is, he was an icon in Iran for a long while. The technically gifted Daei, who was also a serious force in aerial tussles with his 6’3“ frame, earned him a transfer to the Bundesliga in 1997, where he spent five years in Arminia, Hertha and most notably Bayern. There was plenty of gas left in the tank when he returned to Iran in 2002 though, and he kept on banging them in until the ripe age of 38. The Ardabil-born striker also holds a world record for the amount of international goals scored – a staggering total of 109 from 149 caps earned.
KUNISHIGE KAMAMOTO (Japan)
Long before the inception of J-League and any form of fully professional football in Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun had their own homegrown hero in the guise of KunishigeKamamoto. Kamamoto, who spent his whole career in Osaka playing for Yanmar Diesel (later to be renamed Cerezo), is fondly remembered as the goalscoring hero of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, where his seven goals – the tournament’s best – propelled Japan to the bronze medal. His eighty international goals still stand as a national record, and it’s hard to envision it being ever broken.
KIATISUK SENAMUANG (Thailand)
When Kiatisuk finally decided he wants to pursue a full-time footballing career and leave his police job behind him, little did Thailand know that he was to become the best scorer to ever come from those parts of the world. Zico – as he’s known in Thailand, due to his self-professed fandom of the notable Brazilian – plied his trade mostly around his home country, be it Vietnam or Singapore, and if his club record is not impressive enough – 352 goals out of 362 appearances – we can always quote his 73 goals in the national team shirt. He also allegedly scored 127 goals in 71 games in 1996 while playing for Raj Pracha, but FIFA, understandably, has not recognized that record as valid.
AHMED RADHI (Iraq)
One of the brighest stars of the Arab footballing world in the eighties, Radhi is still fondly remembered in his home country of Iraq for his goalscoring feats which brought Iraq to their only ever World Cup to date in 1986. After a tense AFC playoffs which saw the Lions of Mesopotamia roar past UAE and Syria, Radhi went on to score his country’s lone World Cup goal, a consolation strike in the 2-1 defeat to Belgium. He is currently engaged in politics.
SUNIL CHHETRI (India)
An ethnic Nepali born in Telangana, Sunil comes from a footballing family – his father played for the national military team, and his mother and twin sister gained caps for the Nepalese women’s national squads. Sunil is known across the subcontinent for his goalscoring touch, and his 45 goals out of 77 caps can attest to that. On club level, Sunil was active all across the I-League, and he tried his luck in Portugal and USA as well, but so far, it’s only the Indian goalies who he keeps torturing with his skills.
CHAN SIU KI (Hong Kong)
The 29-year old Chan is still making Hong Kong league goalies tremble whenever he gets the ball played to his feet – or head, mind. The lanky striker (6’2“) has been successful everywhere he’s gone– from his youth days at Tai Po, to his most prolific period in South China, where he scored 58 goals in four years – but it is his form in the national side which has the whole former British territory unite behind him, as he has a respectable 34 strikes in 54 earned caps.
AHN JUNG-HWAN (South Korea)
Before the 2002 World Cup, Ahn was a relatively undistinguished forward plying his trade as a loaned import in Perugia. But the golden goal header which eliminated Italy from that competition completely changed the course of his career. The pacey, technically gifted Ahn famously earned himself a dismissal from Perugia as a thank-you for the abovementioned goal, but that didn’t stop him from continuing on a solid run in the J-League, K-League and China, with few European spells for good measure.
YANG SEUNG-KOOK (DPR Korea)
When DPR Korea thoroughly shocked the footballing world in 1966, by first eliminating Italy and then giving Portugal a proper run for their money in the quarter-finals, one of the players who was caughtin the spotlight was Yang. He scored his only goal at the World Cup during the fateful tie with Eusebio’s Portugal at Goodison Park, and received a hero’s welcome his efforts once back at his home country for.
SAEED AL-OWAIRAN (Saudi Arabia)
Before the World Cup in USA kicked off, Owairan was probably known only to Panini sticker buffs and the odd Saudi football fan. All it took for him to reach world stardom was one goal, in which he zig-zagged through the whole Belgian defense and then slotted the ball home past a hapless Michel Preud’homme. But let this not be the only thing said about him – Owairan has been a loyal servant to Al-Shabab in domestic football, finishing his career with 238 goals scored for his only club.
KAZUYOSHI MIURA (Japan)
When the J-League finally kicked off in 1993, it had to have a least a few local faces that fans could cling on to. The most recognizable of the bunch was surely Kazuyoshi Miura, a local boy who spent eight years honing his skills in Brazil only to finally unleash them in his homeland during the 90’s. Kazu – who also bagged 55 goals for the national side – played well into his thirties, and also represented his country at the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup, at the ripe age of 45.