Southeast Asia's Best Imports Ever
15. Ervin Boban
Amongst the first wave of foreign players to arrive at Johor in the late 1980s, the Croatian in many ways set the benchmark for the generations to follow and to this day remains a legend of the southern club after playing a crucial part in the league and Malaysia Cup double achieved in 1991.
Five years prior to that Malaysia Cup triumph, Johor were thrashed 6-1 by Selangor in the 1986 final and they were given scant chance of defeating the same opponents the next time around.
Yet a Boban hattrick secured a 3-1 win that prompted 10,000 fans to greet the team as they arrived back at the airport and accompany them on a motorcade through the city.
In his six years at Johor he garnered a reputation as a forward who could not only score but also bring his teammates into the game by doing a lot of the ‘dirty work’ off the ball.
Having returned in 2015 as head coach of the under-21 side, the hope is that his influence will continue to be felt as the next southern footballing seeds continue to bloom. – SM
14. Alan Davidson
There have been a few high-profile transfers to Malaysia over the years, with the likes of Pablo Aimar, Tony Cottee and David Rocastle coming to mind.
This former Australian international was also in that category and can lay claims to having a better career than any of them away from home.
Davidson, who was capped 79 times for the Socceroos, arrived at Pahang in 1992 and it coincided with the Elephants' change of fortunes as they won the league and Malaysia Cup double that season.
The defender spent four seasons in Kuantan and made over 100 appearances, winning five medals in the process. Davidson returned to Australia after two league titles (1992 & 1995), one Malaysia Cup (1992) and two Charity Shields (1992 & 1993).
Pahang also finished as runners-up in the 1994 and 1995 Malaysia Cup.
The 1988 Olympian returned to Australia for the 1996/97 season and retired at Melbourne Knights the following season. Davidson is an Australian Football Association Hall of Fame member and was voted into the national All-time XI in 2012. – VV
13. Samson Olaleye
Born in Nigeria, the striker has scored more goals than any other player in the history of the V-League. In a decade in the country, he has averaged almost a goal a game.
He first arrived at Than Quang Ninh before taking his talents and his shooting boots to Dong Thap. Attempts to make it in Europe did not work out and the striker, just so reliable and alive in the area where he spends much of his time, came back east and to the capital of Hanoi in 2011.
There he has become a legend and was given a Vietnamese passport in 2013. There are plenty of fans who want to see the player now known as Hoang Vu Samson in the national team and plenty of defenders around the region who don’t.
It’s easy to see why: he’s good in the air and capable of the spectacular, while always seeming to react first inside a crowded penalty area. – JD
12. Juan Manuel Arostegui
Plenty of South Americans, largely Brazilians and Argentines, have played in Malaysia but none have been more captivating in a single season (or two) than Arostegui.
The former Boca Juniors trainee was only 22 and had never played outside his homeland when he signed for MPPJ (now defunct) in 2003.
He hit the ground running as MPPJ rewrote the Malaysian football history books by becoming the first and only club side in Malaysia’s state-dominated football to win the Malaysia Cup.
Arostegui scored a stunning 50 goals – including a hat-trick against Sabah in the Malaysia Cup finale. Such stats would have made any striker in any part of the world proud.
He scored 16 goals in the second-tier Malaysia Premier League the following year but left midway through the season for a brief spell at Mexico’s Pachuca II before signing for Sportivo Belgrano back home. He returned for MPPJ’s swansong season in 2006.
His second and third spell, after signing for ATM in 2014, did not yield similar returns but his first season was extraordinary enough to be remembered for years to come. – VV
11. Scott Ollerenshaw
Nicknamed ‘Ginger Maradona’, Ollerenshaw is part of Sabah football folklore.
The former Australian international signed for Sabah at the age of 26 and became an instant hit as his partnership with local favourite Matlan Marjan quickly became a feared combination.
The two-time Golden Boot winner was part of the Sabah side that won the 1995 FA Cup and the 1996 top-flight title – the Rhinos’ only league triumph to this day. Ollerenshaw scored 18 goals that campaign.
Ollerenshaw is also among the few Golden Boot winners to score more than 20 goals since Malaysian football turned professional in 1989. Only five other players – including 2017 Golden Boot winner Mohammad Ghaddar – have matched that feat since.
Ollerenshaw, who left for Negeri Sembilan for a season before returning to Australia, quit football at 31 due to injuries and returned to Malaysia in 2000 as a businessman, first opening a Coffee Bean franchise before running a futsal centre and a sports tour agency.
He is also a player representative and was instrumental in bringing ‘home’ mixed-heritage Malaysians such as Junior Eldstal, Brendan Gan and Darren Lok. – VV