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In passing legendary Cha Bum-kun, Makoto Hasebe proves he's an Asian football great

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When Makoto Hasebe took the field for Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday against Mainz, he set a new Bundesliga record for the most appearances by an Asian player.

After playing in his 309th match in the top flight of German football, Hasebe surpassed a 30-year record originally set by South Korean legend Cha Bum-kun.

Despite this feat, Hasebe isn't recognised as one of the best of his generation, let alone one of the all-time greats of Asian football.

Maybe the plaudits will eventually fall his way when he does close out a decorated career; although that might not be anytime soon given he recently signed a one-year extension with the Eagles that will take him past his 37th birthday next January.

There is a danger that Hasebe's legacy may not be fully appreciated for the very reason that has made him such a success.

It is widely-accepted fact that attackers usually grab the headlines. A quick glance at the list of past Ballon d'Or winners emphasises that point, as does the practice of giving out awards each season to those who score the most goals.

Hasebe has made a career of excelling in the defensive half of the pitch while doing so in an understated and unassuming manner.

Even when acknowledging his latest achievement in a statement released by Frankfurt, Hasebe self-deprecatingly doubted that he would match Cha's 98 goals -- having only scored seven in almost 13 years in the Bundesliga.

"I heard about it [the record], which of course makes me proud," said Hasebe. "Cha Bum-kun was a big player and I have a lot of respect for him.

"I think I will play more games, but I will certainly not be able to score more goals than Cha."

Hasebe has served his team best by tirelessly winning possessions back before dishing it off to his more attack-minded colleagues.

While playing for Wolfsburg in 2011, Hasebe started an away game against Hoffenheim at right-back, switched to midfield after halftime before spending the last nine minutes filling in between the posts after goalkeeper Marwin Hitz was sent off.

In the process, Hasebe inadvertently earned a place in the history books by becoming the first Japanese goalkeeper in the Bundesliga -- more than nine years before he would repeat the feat in more prestigious and intentional circumstances.

While he has never played for any of Europe's heavyweights, Hasebe is a Bundesliga champion after featuring prominently for the Wolfsburg team that won their first and only ever title back in 2009.

On the international front, his achievements speak for themselves too having captained Japan at three consecutive FIFA World Cups (the first in 2010 as an on-field, stand-in as the regular captain Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi was only the third-choice goalkeeper). He also led them to success at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup.

It is fair that players like Cha, Hidetoshi Nakata, Ali Daei and Son Heung-min will be the first names that come to mind when discussing great Asian football players, given they were the type to exhilarate supporters with their prowess in the attacking third.

But for what he achieved at the opposite end of the field -- with such consistency and professionalism -- and after making history maker in one of world football's biggest competitions, Hasebe should be regarded as a great in his own right.