Being a non football country, this may come as a big surprise to many. The first Asian player to play for a European football club was not a Japanese, not a Korean nor a Chinese. He's Paulino Alcantara from Iloilo City and he's a Pinoy. And marked this one out too. He's not just your casual player who had a short stint there and sent immediately back home. He's a dominant player and even ended up as a football club director and coach in Spain after his retirement from playing. February 13, 2010 marks the 46th death anniversary of this great Filipino athlete and his name deserves a place in thinly occupied pantheon of Filipino sports heroes. Below is an excerpt from wikipedia. A must read for all Filipino sports fans.
He made his debut at the age of 15 years, 4 months and 18 days old on February 25, 1912 against Catalá SC in the Campionat de Catalunya (Catalan football championship) and FC Barcelona won 9-0 and Alcántara scored the first three goals of the game. He was nicknamed "el rompe redes" (the net breaker) due to his scoring ability. Among his team mates during his time at the club were Francisco Bru Sanz, Jack Greenwell and Romà Forns. He went on to help the club win a Copa del Rey (Spanish Cup) and Campionat de Catalunya in 1913 and a Campionat de Catalunya in 1916.
In 1916 Alcántara return to the Philippines and played for the Bohemian Sporting Club. He was selected by the Philippine national football team in 1917 and represented his country at the Far Eastern Championship Games in Tokyo, helping them defeat Japan 15-2, which became the Philippines' highest win in international football. Meanwhile, FC Barcelona had failed to win a championship title in his absence.
After returning to FC Barcelona, his former team mate and coach, Jack Greenwell experimented with Alcántara as a defender, but failed to achieve success on that position, which saw him return to the forward line and in 1919, he helped the club win another Campionat de Catalunya. The club also reached the Copa del Rey final but lost 5-2 to Arenas Club de Getxo. In 1920 the club won another Copa del Rey and the Campionat de Catalunya with Alcántara scoring in the 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa final. The FC Barcelona team included Sagibarba, who formed a partnership with Alcántara as well as Ricardo Zamora, Josep Samitier and Félix Sesúmaga. This marked the beginning of the club’s first golden era and saw them dominate both the Campionat de Catalunya and Copa del Rey tournament. Alcántara scored twice in the 1922 Copa final where FC Barcelona defeated Real Unión 5-1 and scored the winning goal in the 3-2 win over Atlético Madrid in the 1926 final.
In 1915 Alcántara made his debut with Catalonia and in 1924 he played at least 6 games and scored at least 4 goals for the team, as well as representing the Philippines and Spain in international level. In 1920 Alcántara, along with Zamora, Samitier and Sesúmaga, was selected to represent Spain at the Olympic Games. However, Alcántara chose to stay at home to take his final medical exams. He eventually made his debut for Spain on October 7, 1921 at the age of 25 against Belgium and scored both goals in a 2-0 win. He made 5 appearances and scored 6 goals for Spain between 1921 and 1923.