Indonesian starlet Arthur Irawan, currently with Espanyol, writes his second blog for Goal.comThere is a belief that footballers in South East Asia are not good enough to play in Europe because of their size.
That is wrong - and hopefully I might be able to play my part in changing that stereotype view here at RCD Espanyol in Spain.
I am not the biggest player at the club but I have put in a lot of hard work on the training pitch and my fitness and strength, as well as my technical knowledge of the game, have improved dramatically.
When I first moved up to the Espanyol Reserves squad I finished near the back of the training runs. But by the end of pre-season I was regularly beating my Spanish team-mates and coming first. As an Asian footballer you have to have that belief.
To think that you are too small to make an impact in football is not the way to be. We have to try and change the way we view ourselves. They call football the beautiful game. They don’t call it the strongest game. Yes, you have to be as physically fit as you possible can be, but size isn’t everything.
Look at Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. Three supremely gifted footballers who play for one of the biggest clubs, Barcelona, and are rightly recognised as three of the best players in the world. They are not the biggest but it is not size that makes them stand out. They are very, very fit but it is their technical craft, vision and skill that sets them apart.
Paul Scholes at Manchester United in England is another example of a player who has stood head and shoulders above his compatriots for many, many years despite being small in actual physical terms. So too former Liverpool and England striker Michael Owen, who was one of my favourite players growing up.
The Japanese players are showing the way forward for Asia. On a national level they have shown that they can do well against the bigger European countries. Attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa left his homeland to join Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, became a great player for them, and earned a big-money move to the Premier League and Manchester United. And already he has shown the quality that will make him very popular with English football fans.
There is a place for all types in football. The small and skilful players, like Messi, Iniesta , David Silva at Manchester City and Philip Lahm at Bayern Munich, but also stronger, more physical players like Ramos at Real Madrid, Kompany at Manchester City and Drogba, who did so much to help Chelsea win last season’s Champions League. It is all about having that belief, and the desire, to be the best you can be.
I have played in a number of roles during my time at Espanyol, in defence, midfield and even as a ‘number 10’ just behind the main striker. Wherever I am asked to operate I always give 100 per cent. Normally I play at right-back and although I always look to get forward as much as I can to help my attacking team-mates, the main priority as a defender is to keep out the opposition attack.
Clean sheets are something a back four player is proud of, just as much as a goal is to a striker - but the days are gone when a full-back just sat back and concentrated on defending. You have to have attacking quality in your armoury as well.
One of my favourite players is Marcelo at Real Madrid. He is having a battle to gain a first team spot after Real bought Coentrao, another top class player, for 30 million euros, but Marcelo has proved over the last few seasons he can not only defend but is such a tremendous asset powering forward to link up with Cristiano Ronaldo down the left flank.
And it is not just in Spain where quick, athletic, attack-minded full-backs are key players in a team. In the English Premier League you have Gael Clichy at Manchester City, and Patrice Evra and Rafael at Manchester United. I have also been impressed with Phil Jones when he has played at right-back for United, and Martin Kelly at Liverpool. Some are small players, others are much taller. So you see, there is room for players of all statures in football.