When you think of football powerhouses, countries such as Germany and Brazil will probably spring to mind first. But, other countries that might surprise you are making waves and coming up the footballing ranks.
Let’s delve into the world of four countries with growing professional football scenes, and possibly be prepared for some surprises.
Malaysia has been making quiet, confident strides in its football scene. While historically, the country has often shown keen promise, when it comes to success, a refocused onus on grassroots development and infrastructure has helped to catalyze a lot of growth.
And the government is on side, too. In 2022, the Malaysian government announced a plan to invest RM10 million into Malaysian football. This investment is being used to improve the aforementioned infrastructure, as well as develop training academies, and train coaches and referees.
Spectating and betting on football is also growing in popularity in Malaysia, as seen by a growing list of sites for Malaysia in basketballinsiders.com offering competitive odds on both local and international football. With an average of 3.29 goals per match in the Super League, it’s not surprising that so many fans enjoy showing up to show their support for their local teams. In fact, in 2021, nearly 78 million tuned in to Super League matches from home, and that’s not including those who went to the stadium to watch the game in-person.
Major international teams also have a large fanbase in Malaysia, including Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, and Barcelona. While the top Super League teams aren’t quite up to these standards yet, who knows what the future will hold following the government’s investment into the sport.
Japanese football is built on a wonderfully unique blend of tradition and innovation with the J.League being the major driving force behind the continuing growth of football in the country. Japan places a special emphasis on its approach to coaching and continuing player development. This has yielded impressive results already, with the national team consistently performing well on the international stage. The J.League boasted annual attendances of over 4 million in 2022, reflecting steady, strong fan support for the sport, too.
In 2020, the J.League launched a football development program aimed at training a million young people in football. This, and a culture that places a lot of emphasis on teamwork, dedication and discipline, shows how Japan is fostering a future football scene that reflects its truly unique cultural identity.
The football frenzy in Vietnam that’s taken off in the last few years cannot be downplayed. Football matches in the country take on an electric atmosphere, on par with some of the biggest league matches in the world. In short, these fans are passionate, and it only helps to bolster the impressive play of the national team. This success, in turn, has only reinforced the popularity of the beautiful game in the eastern country.
There’s been significant investment too. For example, in 2019, the VFF signed a partnership with the German Football Association (DFB) to help improve coaching and refereeing standards in Vietnam, which was further reinforced with a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2022.
The country of South Korea has a storied footballing history, but it’s proof that nurturing a country’s football scene can substantially pay off. The main and most popular focus in football in South Korea is the K League, which provides a competitive environment for players to showcase their skills and talents. In 2022, the league amassed roughly 1.6 billion South Korean won.
The country is yet another which has honed in nurturing the next generation of professional footballers, which it’s very much hoped will increase the prowess of South Korea on the global footballing stage.
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors is currently the most valuable team in K League 1 in the country, with a team market value of around €21 million. And as of April 2023, Son Heung-min, Tottenham Hotspur’s new captain, was the highest-valued football player from South Korea with a market value of €60 million.
Public interest in the sport has led to regular spending on sporting goods, with fans eager to show off their support for their favorite team and players. In fact, almost a quarter of individuals in the country state that football is their favourite sport. Thanks to some seriously strong performances and a dedicated, not to mention enthusiastic fanbase, South Korea is already making strong and steady progress in the world of football.