Opinion

Why Newcastle's double ASEAN deal is a win-win for all

Syahrian Abimanyu (L) and Liridon Krasniqi Source: Twitter

You wait years for a Southeast Asian player to arrive in the A-League and then two come at once. Friday's announcement that the Newcastle Jets have signed Liridon Krasniqi and Syahrian Abimanyu was exciting as it was welcome.

Krasniqi, originally from Kosovo, is a naturalised Malaysian and the first to head to the A-League.

I saw him play a number of times for Kedah and it is hard to miss him on the field. He is a powerful attacking midfielder who stands out for his stature and often for his beard.

He is tough and not afraid to tell referees what he thinks and get in the faces of the opposition.

In 2020, he became a Malaysian citizen so he could play for the national team but with the global situation there has not yet been an opportunity to don the yellow and black top.

Indonesia excels in producing clever and technically excellent attacking midfielders like Syahrian who can make things happen on the pitch. If he can adapt to the A-League, the move will be great for him as well as the Jets.

And for others. It is a win-win situation for all concerned. These are short-term loan deals and if they don’t work out then all can go their separate ways with no harm done.

But if it does work, well, it could go a long way to changing something that needs to change in Australian football: the lack of Southeast Asian players in the A-League.

To say that the talent is not in the region is simply wrong. It has always been there but has just been a question of tapping into it all which is probably easier said than done but it could, nonetheless, have been done.

If these two signings work out then perhaps we will look back on it as a turning point, just as Arsenal and Chelsea once had.

A long time ago, I worked on a major football site and it was always striking how many visits the site got from certain African countries when anything Arsenal-related was discussed.

It is hard to say how many Arsenal fans there were in Nigeria in the seventies and eighties but it is a safe bet that there weren’t that many.

Yet the Gunners are huge in Africa on the back of signing players from the continent in the nineties as the Premier League started to be widely viewed in the continent - not for nothing are they sponsored by ‘Visit Rwanda’.

Chelsea would later follow suit and are also hugely popular.

Australian teams can build similar connections. Signing players from these Southeast Asian nations and others should be a common thing.

There is a lot of respect for the A-League in Malaysia and Indonesia and these two are well-known players and their exploits will be followed closely.

Of course, the players need to play regularly and if that happens, there will be a new audience tuning into Newcastle games - especially in Indonesia.

It is a massive football-loving country with a massive population. Fans have seen their stars have success elsewhere in Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia, but to do so in Australia and its very different football environment would be a major news story and a source of national pride.

It could help the A-League and its teams in terms of audience, sponsorship and who knows what else?

Krasniqi is slightly different as he is a naturalised Malaysian and it is unlikely that he will be able to tug at the same national consciousness heartstrings as Syahrian.

He is however a familiar figure to Malaysian fans and there will be plenty interested in watching how he performs down under, and at least it will show that leagues such as the Malaysia Super League are good places to go shopping.

It’s going to be fascinating to watch what happens and whatever happens, there will be a lot watching and that could just be the start.