Palace will be leaving south London for Asia later this week to participate in the Premier League Asia Trophy, but how many players have made the opposite journey and featured for the Eagles after jetting in from the East? Here we take a look at the four Asian players to have represented the club.
Ricky Heppolette – India – 1976-1977
Palace’s first Asian-born player didn’t stay too long in SE25, as he featured just 18 times after being signed by Terry Venables during his first season in the Eagles hotseat. The midfielder, who was born in Bhusawal, India, began his playing career with Preston North End before joining Leyton Orient.
Having completed a century of games for both clubs, he moved across the capital to join Palace in October 1976, and made his debut against Preston a few days later. However, by February he was shipped out to Chesterfield, with Palace making a modest profit on the £15,000 they had paid for his services.
Sun Jihai – China – 1998-1999
The left-back arrived alongside Fan Zhiyi when Venables moved to bring in the Chinese international duo during the 1998/99 season, making them the first Chinese players to feature in English football. Sun arrived from Dalian Shide and made his debut in a League Cup tie against Bury with only 3,000 present, but a reported 100 million or more watched the game live in China.
Sun was injured in that match but went on to appear 25 times for the Eagles before the end of the campaign, when he returned to Dalian. After that, he had a successful career in England with Manchester City and Sheffield United.
Fan Zhiyi – China – 1998-2001
Unlike Sun, Fan would stick around at the Eagles for a few more seasons. Having arrived from Shanghai Shenhua, where he had finished as top scorer during the 1995 Chinese A-League season, he was used predominatly in defence during his time in SE25 and even captained the Eagles on occasion.
He would play 102 times during his time at Selhurst Park, scoring six goals, and finished off his final campaign by winning the club’s Player of the Year and helping China reach the 2002 World Cup. He then left for Dundee where he played alongside Julian Speroni, and also featured briefly for Cardiff City.
Chung-yong Lee – South Korea – 2015-present
Affectionately known as Chungy, the winger was signed by Alan Pardew in the 2015 January transfer window after playing for South Korea in the Asian Cup. He had played for Bolton Wanderers for five-and-a-half seasons before moving to south London, where he made 195 appearances and scored 20 times.
Lee has gradually enjoyed more gametime in the Palace side as the seasons have progressed, and featured 19 times for the first-team last term. His best moment in a red and blue shirt came against Stoke City in December 2015 when he scored a last-minute wondergoal to snatch a dramatic win for Pardew side.