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Kuala Lumpur: We’re back with a bumper edition of Asian Football Trivia, as we make a rare exception to our three-question rule and delve deep into the archives to answer four head-scratchers.

A real historical slant to the questions today from fan Phillip O’Brien who has provided us with some testers involving oldest clubs, oldest professional leagues, first overseas Asian players and more.

As usual, let us know your queries, or even suggest answers we may have missed out, via our social media handles with the hashtag #AskAFC. 




Thanks for all the questions, Phillip. We normally keep them one per person, but we’ve decided to indulge you on this occasion as those are some intriguing inquiries.

Oldest Club in Asia

First up, oldest club in Asia. For brevity’s sake, we’ll stick with clubs that are still active and playing in the professional leagues to head off any arguments about amateur or defunct sides in provincial competitions.

Let’s kick off in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Tehran giants Esteghlal were formed in 1945 making them the oldest in the Iranian Pro League at 71 years old.

In Japan, the J.League’s inauguration in 1993 means that subsequent re-brandings of teams make it a little difficult to decipher, although Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s forebears Toyo Kogyo Soccer Club were formed in 1938, making them eight years older than Esteghlal.

In Saudi Arabia, Jeddah giants Al Ittihad can beat that number, though. The two-time AFC Champions League winners celebrated their 90th birthday in January having been founded in 1927.

Al Ittihad, pictured here with the 2005 AFC Champions League trophy, are Saudi Arabia’s oldest club.

However, the teams that boast the lengthiest histories in the continental game tend to have colonial beginnings.

For example, Indonesia’s oldest club, PSM Makassar, were founded in 1915 as Makassar Voetbal Bond, when the country was known as the Dutch East Indies, 

Since the 1940s, the name was changed to PSM Makassar and the club remain active today in the Indonesian top flight, winning the league in 2000.

We’ve still got two that can beat that number, though.

Mohun Bagan, in action above in the 2017 AFC Cup, were founded over 127 years ago.

India’s Mohun Bagan were established in 1889 as Mohun Bagan Sporting Club, 128 years ago. And, indeed, they are generally considered to be Asia's oldest.

However, by just three years, we believe Hong Kong Football Club have them beat.

Set up originally as a private members' sports and social club for playing rugby union and football, the first match of the football team was played on 16 March 1886, against the Royal Engineers. 

The team won the Hong Kong First Division in 1920, and were playing in the top flight in Hong Kong as recently as the 2016-2017 season, although it was a year to forget as they were relegated back to the second tier.

First Professional League in Asia

Keeping on a similar vein as the previous answer, the Hong Kong First Division is considered by some to be the oldest in Asia, having been established in 1908.

With the Senior Shield founded in 1896, the former colony also boasts the oldest football knockout inter-club competition in Asia. We should also give a nod to India's regional tournament, the Calcutta Football League, which began in 1898.

South China AA dominated the Hong Kong First Division, winning the title 41 times.

However, the question deals with professional leagues in which case it gets trickier and the answer a bit more recent.

One of the most well-known fully professional leagues in Asia, the J.League, as we mentioned in the previous answer, had its maiden season in 1993. 

That puts Japan ahead of many of the other developed footballing nations of the continent including the likes of China, IR Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, India, Thailand and Australia.

Pohang Steelers, as POSCO, played in the inaugural K-League Classic in 1983

By a decade, though, rivals Korea Republic have them beat with the K-League Classic's first season as a professional entity coming in 1983.

Depending on your definition of professionalisation, we do have one challenger to Korea's claim and its one that brings us full circle. 

Ahead of the Hong Kong First Division's 1968-69 season, the Hong Kong Football Association legalised professional football, making Hong Kong the first place in Asia to introduce professional football, 15 years before Korea. 

First Asian Player Overseas

In an article published in The Guardian in 2006, Nick Harris, author of the Foreign Revolution: How Overseas Footballers Changed the English Game, cited five India-born players who played for English League clubs between 1903 and 1909 - these included Jimmy Pass, Charles Donaghy, George Hunter, Hugh Dolby and Rudolph O’Donnell.

Barcelona and Philippines star Paulino Alcantara

However, with India only playing its first official international in 1938, it can be argued that the first player to represent Asia and play overseas would be Barcelona and the Philippines striker Paulino Alcantara, the Catalan club’s second highest goal scorer of all time.

Born in the province of Iloilo, Alcantara would debut for the Spanish giants in 1912 and also appeared for the Philippines national team in 1917. 

Alcantara memorably took part in the Far Eastern Championship Games in Tokyo as a member of the side that crushed the hosts 15-2, which remains the Philippines' record win.

Highest Transfer Fee Paid for An Asian Player

We’ll finish up with the easiest question of the bunch, we’ll give you the top five, in fact. Four of them are Japanese.

Keisuke Honda kicks us off at number five. The dyed blonde midfielder transferred from Dutch club VVV-Venlo to CSKA Moscow in 2000 at a cost of €9 million.

Next up is Shinji Okazaki, who played a key role in Leicester City’s fairytale English Premier League success in the 2015-2016 season. The Japanese striker joined the Foxes from Mainz for €9.5 million.

Into the top three and another Shinji, this time Shinji Kagawa who joined Manchester United in 2012 for a cool €16 million and was part of the side who lifted the 2012-2013 English Premier League.

From 2001 up until 2015, Asian Icon Hidetoshi Nakata has been the man to wear the crown of most expensive Asian footballer, when the Samurai Blue superstar moved from Roma to Parma for €26 million following a championship-winning season at the capital city club.

But it’s the only non-Japanese player on the list that pushes Nakata down to second place.

Korean forward Son Heung-min’s move to English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur in 2015 was valued at €30 million which makes this the highest transfer fee paid for an Asian player. 

Photos: & Lagardère Sports