While AFCON may be taking the headlines, it’s not the only international tournament taking place this month. Join us as we take a look at some of the biggest stars from Asian football to have shone in Ligue 1.
The massive influence of African football will see nearly sixty players from Ligue 1 take part in the African Cup of Nations in a few, but a handful of players, including the Stade de Reims pair of Junya Ito and Keito Nakamura (Japan) and the PSG star Lee Kang-In will take part in the Asian Cup. The world’s second-oldest continental tournament, it will see 24 teams battle for the title, and it’s also a tournament that has seen plenty of Ligue 1 stars take part. Here are some memorable names that have impressed in France and with their countries.
Robbie Slater, Australia — Racing Club de Lens, 2001-4
Slater wasn’t the first Australian to play in France, but he was comfortably the most successful. He made more than one hundred appearances for Le Sang et Or and was twice named Oceania Footballer of the Year, prior to the Socceroos having joined the AFC.
Hiroki Sakai, Japan — Olympique de Marseille, 2016-21
The versatile fullback will miss this edition of the Asian Cup due to injury, but there’s no missing his contributions to OM’s success during his tenure there. Over nearly 200 appearances for the team, he helped them reach the final of the Europa League and play regularly in Europe, and was even named the team’s player of the season in 2018-19.
Eiji Kawashima, Japan — FC Metz 2016-18, RC Strasbourg 2018-23
Kawashima was often a backup in Ligue 1, playing behind the likes of Matz Sels and Thomas Didillon towards the end of his career, but still managed to make sixty appearances in Ligue 1. Despite this, with nearly a century of caps for his country, including the 2019 Asian Cup, his importance to Japan is of little doubt.
Park Chu-young, South Korea — AS Monaco 2008-11
Park is still playing at the age of 38 in his native country, but despite the Principality side’s struggles at the time, he also impressed with AS Monaco. He helped them reach the final of the 2009-10 Coupe de France and despite battling injuries, scored regularly when fit.
Hwang Ui-Jo, South Korea — Girondins de Bordeaux 2019-22
Hwang’s arrival to the southwest of France initially saw him struggle, but under Jean-Louis Gasset, he became an effective striker despite his team’s battles with relegation. Now with Norwich City in England, despite not being called up for the Asian Cup, he remains a vital player for his country.