Foreign forwards are shining in this season's Chinese Super League, with the scoring chart largely dominated by imports. With 13 rounds played, six of the top eight marksmen in the competition hail from outside China PR.
Henan Jianye's Polish star Emmanuel Olisadebe leads the way with 7 goals, while just behind him is is Tianjin Taida's Brazilian forward Eber Luis, who has scored six times in as many games. Hot on the heels of these two are Guangzhou Yiyao's Luis Alfano Ramirez, Guillaume Dah Zadi of Changchun Yatai and Changsha Jinde's Aboubakar Oumarou with five goals apiece. FIFA.com takes a look the foreign strike troops in China.
While it has become customary for elderly stars of the European game to spend their twilight years in west Asia, one can also come across some familiar faces in this season's Chinese Super League. Probably the most notable among them is Olisadebe, who almost single-handedly steered Poland to the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, scoring eight times in qualifying.
The former Portsmouth striker may have been struggling with a recurring knee injury in recent years, but he quickly rediscovered his prolific form after joining the low-profile Henan Jianye. The 29-year-old opened his account in his second Super League appearance, scoring a brace in Henan's 3-3 home draw with Liaoning.
His third goal came three weeks later, when he netted the winner against Zhejiang Lucheng in Round 5. Then came a home game against Qingdao, in which Olisadebe's second two-goal haul earned Henan a deserved 2-0 win. The Nigeria-born marksman again rose to the occasion against Shenzhen in Round 11, scoring twice to secure Henan the three points and himself top of the scoring chart.
The man who attracts the most popularity and publicity, however, is the less-internationally-famous Honduran, Luis Alfano Ramirez, who has already been plying his trade in China for two years. He first made his mark in 2006 when he scored 13 times for Shanghai Shenhua. Last year he played an instrumental role for Guangzhou Yiyao, scoring 19 goals in the club's promotion campaign. The 31-year-old has contributed five goals this year to help Guangzhou power into the top six in their maiden season in the top flight.
With the older stars making news in China, a host of young foreign talents are flourishing in the Far East as well, and it is a Cameroonian youngster who is stealing the show. The 21-year-old Aboubakar Oumarou did not have the happiest of debut seasons in the Super League, scoring only two goals for Changsha Jinde in 2007.
However, his predatory talents have been unleashed this season, and he is currently the team's top scorer. His five goals, including two in Chagsha's 4-2 win over Guangzhou a week ago, lifted his side out of the relegation zone. Elsewhere, 26-year-old Brazilian Eber Luis is making a success of his stint with giants Tianjin Taida. The 1.91m forward has become the darling of the local fans, scoring six goals to move Tianjin into fourth place in the standings.
The foreign monopoly on the scoring chart has brought the Chinese national team's struggles into sharp focus. China's finishing has been their downfall, and it hurt them badly in their failed mission to reach South Africa 2010, during which they scored only three goals in six games. This failure has been attributed to the Super League's reliance on foreign forwards reducing local players' opportunities, but former China and Eintracht Frankfurt forward Yang Chen believes the current influx will help improve the country's football in general.
"It goes without saying that their involvement makes the league more competitive and entertaining, and the local players can learn a lot from their foreign colleagues," he told FIFA.com. "Our players will only become stronger and better in competing for their places against them."