No footballer from South-east Asia has played in the English Premier League but Thai company Chang Beer aims to change that through its long-standing sponsorship deal with Everton.
The Merseyside outfit are on the lookout for top regional talent through their youth tournaments in Thailand, which will expand into other ASEAN countries in the coming years.
"As a football club focused on youth development, we will do everything to aid a South-east Asian youngster's dream," said Everton ambassador and former midfielder Graham Stuart, who was at a fans' event held at the InterContinental Singapore Hotel to celebrate Chang Beer's partnership with the club.
"It won't be easy but if they're good enough, Everton has shown that they will take a chance."
Fellow club ambassador Ian Snodin added: "We have seen some very impressive talent technically."
"Previously, we would say Asian players maybe lacked the physique but Xavi and (Andres) Iniesta have shown that small men can make it big," he noted.
This spells good news for the likes of 1.58m Thailand forward Chanathip Songkrasin, who has been linked with a move to a European club after leading his country to victory at the ASEAN Football Championship and the SEA Games within the space of six months.
"The time is ripe for a Thai to play in the EPL," said Surapol Utintu, executive director of Thaibev Marketing, which is the parent company of Chang Beer.
"We sent six Thai boys to Everton's academy 10 years ago but it wasn't easy because of work permit and acclimatisation issues.
"Today, they will stand a better chance, given the rise of Asian football," he added.
China midfielder Li Tie and Australia forward Tim Cahill had previously represented the Toffees' first team over the years.
Even a stint for prospective ASEAN talents at their Finch Farm training facility can prove useful.
Unable to match the financial firepower of neighbours Liverpool and the Manchester giants, Everton have sought to close the gap by investing in their academy.
The most high-profile graduate remains Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney. Jack Rodwell, Ross Barkley and Tyias Browning are some of the Toffees' academy products.
Said 1995 FA Cup winner Stuart: "It's the quality of the coaching and the belief that if you have the ability, you will get the opportunity, which is not necessarily the case at the big clubs."
"If we can take this philosophy into South-east Asia, it will only be a matter of time before the region sees its very own in the EPL."
This article was first published on July 17, 2015.
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