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Who are the Asian football stars?

  • Story Highlights
  • A new initiative is launched to find the Asian football stars of the future
  • Players aged 12 to 14 will be put through their paces by Chelsea FC staff
  • English football currently boasts very few players of Asian descent
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By Neale Graham
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The 2002 World Cup tournament was the first one held in Asia and was instrumental in bringing the world's attention to the continent's footballing talents.

Michael Chopra

Michael Chopra was the first player of Indian parentage to play and score in the English Premier League.

It was seen as Asia's chance to show the rest of the world what it had to offer on the pitch and with South Korea reaching the last four of the tournament, the rest of the world was impressed.

However, since then few footballers of Asian origin have made an impact outside of the Asian Federation Cup (AFC) -- the largest league in terms of area and population.

A new initiative, spearheaded by Chelsea FC, has been launched in the UK to search for talented youngsters from backgrounds not commonly found among today's top footballers such as India and Pakistan.

See a gallery of the best Asian players

Chelsea have teamed up with the Football Association (FA), anti-racism campaigners Kick It Out and the Asian Media Group for the The Search for an Asian Star event to be held in May at Chelsea's training ground in Stamford Bridge, London.

The search is aimed at players in the under 12, 13 and 14 age groups and is open to players based in London and the south-east of England who hail from Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi backgrounds.

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"We realize there is a lack of representation of players from Asian backgrounds within the game and we hope that the competition will help inspire Asian youngsters," former Chelsea and England full-back Graeme Le Saux told

"We want to show that race is no barrier to joining our club and that opportunities for Asian players do exist. It is important all clubs share our ambition that players should only be judged on their talent and their potential."

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