When it comes to world football, South-East Asia does not really fall in the upper bracket. However, it does have a vibrant diaspora of footballers who have made a name for themselves at club and international level. These players were once eligible to represent their native countries but by now, they have already starred for the adopted national teams.
Fox Sports Asia compiles a list of world-class footballers of South-East Asian descent who you didn’t know about.
#1 Radja Nainggolan (Belgium, Inter Milan)
Born to a Belgian mother and an Indonesian father, Radja Nainggolan, has a rare mix of genes but that clearly did not stop him from becoming a world class footballer.
He began his senior career at Serie B club Piacenza before moving to Cagliari. It was his performances with the Rossoblu that attracted the attention of AS Roma and since then, he has never looked back.
Known for his tempestuous outspoken nature, chain-smoking and proclivity for partying all night, the 30-year-old is a force to reckon with on the pitch. It is the Inter Milan star’s pitbull-cum-artiste style of play in midfield that makes him what he is.
Initially, during his early career, Radja was on the radar of the Indonesian national team but he decided to represent Belgium at the international level.
#2 David Alaba (Austria, Bayern Munich)
The son of a Nigerian father and Filipino mother, David Alaba, is one of the most versatile footballers around the world at this moment.
Having started his career in Austria before moving to German side Bayern Munich, Alaba has the ability to play at central midfield, central defence, right and left wing, and left-back. He is known for his calmness and composure on the ball and, of course, his deadly freekicks.
Quite frankly, he has developed into this footballer who isn’t bad at anything. He can read the game very well, he is excellent in one-on-one situations and, on top of that, he is a solid tackler.
When he started out, he had the option to represent both Nigeria and Philippines but he chose his birth country.
#3 Yohan Cabaye (France, Al Nasr)
A 3-time Ligue 1 champion and a seasoned Premier League campaigner, Yohan Cabaye, has established himself as one of the stars of French football. However, many would be surprised to know that he is of Vietnamese descent through his paternal grandmother.
The multifaceted midfielder started his footballing career at Lille. However, in 2011, just after he had helped the French club to a historic league and cup double, Cabaye joined Newcastle United. He enjoyed terrific debut season at St James Park and was one of France’s few stand-out performers at Euro 2012.
In 2014, Cabaye moved back to France to play for PSG but he was signed by Crystal Palace the following season. After spending three years with the Eagles, he signed for UAE Arabian Gulf League side Al Nasr in 2018.
#4 Alphonse Areola (France, Paris Saint-Germain)
When France lifted the World Cup for the second time a few months back, Alphonse Areola touched an unlikely milestone…he became the first footballer in 36 years to claim a medal despite never being capped.
To his credit, Areola is an excellent keeper who is known for his shot-stopping abilities and distribution. What few people know, though, is that his parents are both of Filipino heritage and, at one point, he was eligible to play for the Philippines senior team.
In fact, in 2011 was invited by team manager Dan Palami to consider playing for the national team but he decided to play for Les Blues.
On the hindsight, it looks like he made a smart choice, didn’t he?
#5 Nigel de Jong (Netherlands, Al Ahli)
Born to a Surinamese father and a Dutch-Indonesian mother, Nigel de Jong has enjoyed a successful career, both at domestic and international levels.
He has played for a host of top European clubs like Ajax Amsterdam, Manchester City, AC Milan, and Galatasaray has won several team honours including Eredivisie, Premier League and FA Cup.
De Jong was also a crucial part of the Dutch squads that finished as runners-up at the 2010 World Cup and came third in the 2014 edition. Nicknamed ‘the Destroyer’, he is popular as a combative and feisty player. He currently plays for Qatar Stars League club Al Ahli.