(Liverpool Echo (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) EASTERN PROMISE ; LEICESTER CITY v EVERTONToday, 12.20pm kick-off, Suphachalasai Stadium, BangkokThai trip is the latest venture in long-standing commercial links with Asia for Blues
TONIGHT Everton face a Leicester City side they'll meet again in three weeks time on the opening day of the new Premier League season but this encounter takes place almost 6,000 miles away from the King Power Stadium.
Just why are these two domestic rivals going toe-to-toe on the other side of the world you might wonder? But with the Blues sponsored by thai beer Chang and the Foxes owned by thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the stage is set for a pre-season Bangkok showdown.
Quite simply there is massive potential in the Asian market. there's an image made famous on the internet of a map of the world showing a relatively small section of the globe circled over Asia (see inset).
More people live inside this circle than everyone else outside it.
With 4.4 billion of the world's 7 billion people living in Asia it is by far the most populated region of the planet and therefore potentially home to the most football fans.
Given that the Premier League remains the world's most popular football product, such marketing opportunities cannot be snified Given that the Premier League remains the world's most popular football product, such marketing opportunities cannot be snified at.
It's probably fair to say that It's probably fair to say that the world of Asian football doesn't enjoy the best of reputations on these shores.
reputations on these shores.
From the fall of thaksin Shinawatra and Carson Yeung who invested in Manchester City and Birmingham City respectively, Vincent Tang forcing the Bluebirds of Cardifi to abandon a century of tradition, murky Far Eastern betting syndicates and the whole Qatar 2022 World Cup debacle it's hardly a positive feel.
Cardifi to abandon a century of tradition, murky Far Eastern whole Qatar 2022 World Cup debacle it's hardly a positive However from their own point of view, Everton have point of view, Everton have found club sponsors Chang to be congenial partners for over a decade now. As well as providing the Blues with their ffnancial support since 2004 - including a new Pounds 16million three-year contract extension earlier this year - the thai brewery has also worked in conjunction with Everton on numerous community initiatives both in their native country and the UK.
with their ffnancial support since 2004 - including a new Pounds 16million three-year contract extension earlier this year - the thai brewery has also worked in conjunction with Everton on numerous community initiatives both in their native country and the UK.
high-proffle project was the creation of Everton-Chang Village, a cluster of 50 new homes built by the thai army on the Arguably the most high-proffle project was the creation of Everton-Chang Village, a cluster of 50 new homes built by the thai army on the edge of the Indian Ocean at the heart of the area where more than 1,300 people out of a local population of 4,500 lost their lives in the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004.
than 1,300 people out of a local population of 4,500 lost their lives in the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004.
the Blues ffrst team squad actually visited the site in the summer of 2005 as they touched down on Asian soil for the ffrst the Blues ffrst team squad actually visited the site in the summer of 2005 as they touched down on Asian soil for the ffrst time with Duncan Ferguson, James Beattie, Tim Cahill, Lee Carsley, Kevin Kilbane, Alan Irvine and Robert Elstone all making the trip.
Everton were also the ffrst club to set up a disaster fund two days after an earthquake in the Indian Ocean caused the tidal waves, with supporters raising over Pounds 100,000.
on the ffeld, the Blues' groundbreaki' tour of 2005 as they geared up for their ffrst crack at Champions League football was less of a resounding success as they drew each of their games before losing them both on penalties.
Competing in the Premier League Asia Trophy, Everton were held by the thai national under-23 side in front of just 3,000 spectators in a sparsely populated national stadium in Bangkok.
David Moyes' team fell behind after eight minutes to a goal from Pichitpong and despite new recruit Marcus Bent levelling just before the interval, Joseph Yobo's penalty miss ensured they were beaten 5- 3 on spot-kicks despite Weir, James McFadden and Kilbane all netting.
ensured they were there was more shoot-out woe to come in the third place play-ofi after a 1-1 draw with Manchester City.
Although there were more fans watching on this occasion the crowd was still a mere 10,000 as Beattie's 51st minute penalty cancelled out Andy Cole's 21st minute opener for the Mancunians.
this time Weir and Bent were the culprits from 12 yards out as Ferguson and Kilbane netted in a 4-2 defeat on penalties.
Until now, the tour remained Everton's only visit to the region with a couple of aborted trips looming large in the memory.
Moyes was set to take his side out to China to play Shandong and Shenzhen in late May 2003 after completing his rst full season in charge but the games never took place due to the SARS epidemic across Asia. SARS is a viral respiratory disease which caused 775 deaths that year.
More recently, the Scot was poised to take the Blues to the Java Cup in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta in July 2012.
Everton were set to face a Malaysia XI and then either hosts Indonesia or Galatasaray.
Problems arose when the Turkish champions withdrew. Initially it was indicated that Uruguayan club Nacional would take their place but as the tournament structure remained unconrmed, the Blues pulled the plug on their own participation.
EVERTON's commercial links to Asia are long standing with rms from the Far East sponsoring them for all but ve years since 1985.
Japanese IT giants NEC (Nippon Electric Company) struck a decade- long contract on the back of the 1984/85 campaign that was the most successful in Goodison history and signed o- their partnership with the 1995 FA Cup nal victory.
Chinese telecommunications company Keijan came on board in 2002 and the deal prompted a double move for China World Cup stars Li Tie and Li Weifeng.
Despite winning 112 caps for China, centre-back Weifeng managed just a single Premier League appearance at Southampton and a League Cup outing at Wrexham - in which a certain 16-year-old Wayne Rooney netted his rst two goals for the club - before heading home.
Midelder Tie adapted better and after 29 appearances on loan in Pounds 1.002/03, Moyes snapped him up for Pounds 1.2million the following summer.
Despite remaining a popular gure within the Goodison dressing room, injury problems including a broken leg picked up on international duty in February 2004 blighted the remainder of his time at the club.
His Premier League tussles against compatriot Sun Jihai attracted phenomenal television audiences back in China though, with record numbers of viewers, estimated at over 100 million, tuning into watch Everton play Manchester City.
Given that the Blues now have the most recognisable face in US football in the shape of World Cup national hero Tim Howard, Evertonians will be hoping Goodison chiefs don't waste their chance to tap into that particular market.
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