Saturday, March 06, 2010

Cunning linguists find success

There are several things that have made Park Ji-sung and Hidetoshi Nakata stand out from the other Asian players who have gone to Europe and principal among the reasons for their success has been their ability to adapt to life in the country in which they have played.

This article in The Korea Herald ( sums up what it is that makes these players stand out from many of the other Asian players who have gone to play in the European leagues. Park has shown his determination to fit in whether it be in Japan, the Netherlands or England by learning the language of each country effectively from scratch.

A similar story exists about Nakata when he joined Bolton Wanderers from Serie A for the final season of his professional career in Europe.

At the press conference to unveil him as the club's new signing, Nakata was asked by a Japanese reporter whether they should address him in English or in Japanese. Nakata, by then already fluent in English as well as Italian, turned and answered in the most cutting of tones: "English. Remember where you are." It's fair to say Nakata's relationship with the majority of the Japanese media was never the most cordial!

Of course, talent is the most important commodity and without it neither Park nor Nakata would have been successful. But being able to understand what is going on around you on a day-to-day basis makes it much easier to fit in both on and off the pitch. A happy life off the pitch contributes greatly to success on it.

Too many Asian players - particularly from the east of the continent - have gone to Europe and cocooned themselves in their own little worlds, socializing only with members of the expatriate community of their homeland, watching TV shows from back home either on the internet or on DVD. One player - China's Li Weifeng - even flew his mother to England so he could have her home cooked food every day! Needless to say, he only lasted six months at Everton before returning to China for good.

Some, of course, have managed well without the need to speak the local lingo fluently. Shunsuke Nakamura's English remains limited at best, despite his successful stint at Celtic. Although there will no doubt be some who think it makes little difference if you speak English or Japanese in Glasgow...

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