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Two of Asia’s Top Footballers Debut in England

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Sport & Culture

Two of Asia’s Top Footballers Debut in England

With expectations high, Shinji Kagawa and Park Ji-sung both had disappointing starts.

Two of Asia's biggest football stars got off to losing starts in their new adventures in the English Primer League last weekend.

Most eyes were on Shinji Kagawa, the 23 year-old Japanese midfielder who joined the global giant, Manchester United, after performing impressively for the German club, Borussia Dortmund. Manchester doled out millions of dollars to acquire Kagawa and the fee could go higher still depending on how well he performs.

He is the first Japanese star to play for the club and expectations and excitement were high both in Manchester and back home, with a number of journalists making the trip from Tokyo to Liverpool to watch his first game in the famous red shirt at the home of Everton.

Kagawa played well but his team was less impressive. United, who just missed out on a 20th English championship last season, lost 1-0 to an impressive Everton team. Kagawa was United's best performer, completing 68 out of 75 passes and creating four chances for his teammates but it wasn't enough.

There is a long way to go however and the signs point to the fact that Japan will soon have its first genuine Premier League star.

Interestingly, Kagawa made his debut for the club against the same team at the same stadium where Park Ji-sung first appeared in a Manchester United shirt.

Park spent seven successful years with the Red Devils, winning all kinds of trophies but left the northwest of England in July to head to London to play for the Queen's Park Rangers.

"This is only the beginning for me," said the 23 year-old Japanese star. “Park Ji-Sung is the best player Asia has ever produced and there's no doubt about that. He played regularly for Manchester United for a long time. I cannot be sure how long it would take me to establish myself in the team like him. I will always work hard to do so, though."

If Park had not left United soon after Kagawa’s arrival (the two events are not connected according to the Korean), the two could have played together.

"Watching him play for Manchester United motivated me a lot. I began to truly believe Asian players could play in big clubs," said Kagawa.

"I was expecting we could help each other and play together at United. It is a shame that he left Manchester United."

"Like Park, I will focus everyday on training and do my best to stay here a long time. As a person too, I want to be like Park. I respect him sincerely."

The club just survived in the Premier League last season but is ambitious. Park was one of eight new players and the highest profile. The Korean is seen as a vital part of QPR's quest to climb the standings and stay in the top half on a long-term basis.

Such hopes were dealt something of a blow after a 5-0 defeat in the opening game at home to Swansea City – a team expected by many to struggle this season.

It was a harsh reminder that Park is no longer at Manchester United. Shinji Kagawa is just starting out on his career in England and also realizes that despite the team being one of the best in Europe, there will be no easy games.