Whilst it may not be as glamorous as the leagues within England, Italy, Germany, or Spain, it sure is just as much fun a save.
In this most recent edition, SI have included the following nations: Australia [1 tier], China [2 tiers], Hong Kong [1 tier], India [1 tier], Indonesia [2 tiers], Malaysia [2 tiers], Singapore [1 tier], and South Korea [2 tiers].
I'd actually hoped that SI would be able to provide us with the Indian Super League in FM22, but alas: it wasn't to be.
I'm going to tell you the 5 teams that I feel are worth considering a save with, if you wish to of course, and give you a few reasons as to why it'd be worth your time.
So strap in, as I'm sure that there'll be some information within that you may not have known before!
1. Lion City Sailors - Singapore
So the first team that I've nominated would be one that not many may have heard of, due to the fact that Lion City Sailors are the rebrand of Home United.
When Singaporean billionaire Forrest Li bought Home United in 2020, he decided that they needed a "fresh start", and he signed off on the decision to change the name of the club and its badge, as well as the colour of their kits.
Unlike Europe, where this would be considered unusual, this isn't really the case in Asia. Teams ‘come and go’ at a whim, which can make it hard for them to establish a loyal fan base.
Since his purchase of the club, Lion City Sailors [LCS] have brought in an abundance of talent. So much, in fact, that almost all of their bench would walk straight into other AIA Singapore Premier League starting-11's.
There’s 11 full Singaporean internationals that start at the club, including the recently naturalized Song Ui-Young, whilst there's also 5-6 youngsters that are in the mix for the underage national teams.
Long story short: this team is stacked!
I also feel the need to mention the foreign players that are already at the club. In Singapore, you’re limited to only having 4 foreign players on your books, so it’s imperative that you get this right.
As I've mentioned above: one of the LCS foreign players is being naturalized, so you’ll soon have an extra spot. The other foreign players are: Jorge Fellipe [CB], Diego Lopes [AM], and Stipe Plazibat [RW].
All 3 are easily good enough to take the club to an easy league win, although the contracts of Jorge is expiring, so you have the flexibility to change them if you wish to.
Unfortunately, SI have gotten a couple of things wrong regarding Stipe Plazibat, and Song Ui-young.
Stipe is listed as a right-winger, when he’s actually a striker, as well as him having a contract until the end of December, 2022. He’s actually just left LCS in real life, due to the fact his contract expired in November 2021: which would’ve been possible to code in the game.
In regard to Song: they got his naturalization right. Unfortunately, they still have him listed a striker [he’s been playing central-midfield for close to 5-years now], and have made him 3-years older!? They had his date of birth correct in FM21, so I'm at a loss as to why this change has been made.
Tactically, you can do whatever you like in Singapore and dominate.
I had a fun save on FM21 where I played 1 defender with 2 defensive-midfielder in front, and then a midfield 4, followed by 2 attacking-midfielders and a striker. It looked like a diamond, and it destroyed the league!
My point to mentioning this is: if you have the right players, you’ll win no matter what.
How you elect to set the team up will decide as to whether or not you’ll need to make moves in the transfer market, and the beauty of if you do is the fact that you’ll be able to pick the other teams within the league apart.
Players are desperate to get to LCS [in-game, and in real life!] and that makes your recruitment a lot easier.
The first season, you won’t compete in continental competitions, so I recommend using it as a season to prepare yourself for it.
Fine tune your squad, identify if you need/want to sign different foreign players [remembering the ‘3+1’ foreign player rules in continental comps], and go from there.
After the first season, success will be ingrained in the club, and domination [domestically] for the entirety of your save will be something that’s to be expected.
It’s the continental competitions that will be your true test, and if you can win one of them: you’ll seal yourself as a legend in Singaporean football!
2. Shanghai Shenhua - China
A save in China is quite a lot of fun, and finding the right club to take charge of is quite a tough challenge.
Expectations from the owners can be a tricky thing to navigate, and in Shanghai Shenhua: I feel there's the right balance.
Not only are the owners willing to pump in plenty of money, they're also willing to stay in the background a bit more, and just let you get on with your job.
The thing that drew me to the Shanghai Shenhua job was the fact that the club does require a bit of a rebuild, with their average age over 32-years old, and there's a lot of expiring contracts at the end of the first season: making that rebuild quite a bit easier to carry out.
You could, of course, renew the contracts: I just chose to allow most of the players to depart instead!
There's been a bit of a shift in the dynamics regarding football in China, with a lot of the money being withdrawn from quite a lot of clubs, and I feel that that’s been accurately represented in FM22.
With that being said: you’ve not been left high and dry either. Upon taking charge at Shanghai Shenhua, you’ll receive a €2.6m transfer budget, but it’s your wage budget that’s in dire straits.
Thankfully: your club has 64 players across its 3 squads.
The foreign player situation is different in China, with you allowed 6 foreign players on your books, with their [combined] wages being no more than €190,000/week.
It means that you can’t go too crazy, like clubs in China have done in the past, and you have to go out and find someone that’s a bit more ‘budget friendly.’
Upon taking charge at the club, you’ll already have 5 of your allotted 6 spots filled, whilst the club has an Ecuadorian striker out on loan in the tier below.
Also, Qian Jiegei shows up as Gabonese, but doesn’t count towards the ‘quota’ as he has a Chinese mother. He’s ineligible for all forms of international football, so I recommend keeping him at all costs.
Unfortunately, China doesn’t allow ‘dual nationality’, so you’re still stuck with him in your foreign quota regardless, as he doesn’t want to switch his nationality.
For that reason, this is something you should keep in mind when signing foreign players in the future.
Regardless: you're well stocked to begin the save. Matej Jonjic, Adrian Mierzejewski, Giovanni Moreno, Cedric Bassogog and Kim Shin-Wook are all quality players, and good enough to help you to compete for the Chinese Super League title.
Tactically, I think a back-3 styled system is the best way forward for a Chinese save, as there just isn't too many ‘top quality’ Chinese defenders in terms of RB, CB, or LB.
Once you get to the midfield, you just need players with a good ‘work rate’ and ‘stamina’ attribute, because it’s your players in the front third that will matter the most.
I played an attacking-midfielder [Moreno] behind Bassogog [AF-A] and Shin-Wook [TF-S] to great effect, so feel free to try that.
The board expects you to qualify for the Asian Champions League at the end of the first season, which means that you’ll need a top-4 finish to do so.
The media prediction has the club finishing 5TH, but I think they're being a bit harsh personally. With the foreign lads at the club already, you have every chance of a top-4 finish, and even a solid cup run too.
The fun in this save begins at the end of the first season in my opinion, when all the players come off contract, and you're afforded more room to make the squad ‘truly yours’ in the seasons to come.
3. Kitchee SC - Hong Kong
Staying in Eastern Asia, we move just over 1,200km’s south-west to Hong Kong, with Kitchee SC our destination.
I've had a number of saves in Hong Kong over the years, but it’s my saves with Kitchee SC that I've always enjoyed the most. Why? The board just gets it.
Whilst their expectations of you will always be high, they’ll also always provide you with the resources required to achieve your objectives.
The board will expect you to win the league and FA Cup every season, with the other domestic competitions not seen as important, and failure to win the league or FA Cup will [probably] see you sacked.
Upon taking charge of the club, your first-team squad will contain 8 current ‘full’ internationals [7x Hong Kong, 1x Montenegro], whilst there’ll also be 2 youth internationals too.
There's so much talent within it, though there's also a hint of the squad being a bit unbalanced too: the recruitment in the past hasn’t been too great in my opinion.
So there's room to improve, but there's no reason to be worried either: you’ve still inherited a fantastic squad by Hong Kong Premier League standards.
You have the choice of instantly maneuvering in the transfer market, but you also have the luxury of not having to if you don’t wish to.
The foreign player limits are a bit strange in Hong Kong, so I’ll do my best to explain what I believe to be the way to move forward with your save.
You’re allowed up to 7 foreign players [5 from anywhere, 1 from an Asian nation, and 1 from China or a Chinese territory] on your books, but here’s the kicker: only 4 of them can be in your matchday squad!
It’s an interesting rule to have, and considering that Asian continental competitions operate with a ‘3+1’ rule, I tend to try to keep my squads to only 4 foreign players.
With Hong Kong though, you have that liberty of possibly bringing in some young foreign players who look quite special, and having them around the squad: working their way towards a Hong Kong passport in 7-years.
Upon taking over Kitchee SC, you’ll have 9 foreign players on your books. Fortunately: 2 of them are being naturalized. For that very reason, I haven’t included them in the spoilers below.
You have a Brazilian goalkeeper in your reserves team eligible for a Hong Kong passport: you just need to get his Cantonese speaking skills up to the required level.
In terms of your tactical set-up, Hong Kong is somewhere you can ‘experiment’ a bit more, without going too crazy.
The midfield three [2x CM, 1x DM] could be given a bit of freedom, though offering some protection to your central-defenders via a ‘half back’ or ‘anchor’ wouldn’t be the worst idea either.
From there, you can select whether you want to play a flat front-3, or wingers and a lone striker. I chose to play two wingers on ‘attack’, with a deep-lying striker up front, with it resulting in a hell of a lot of goals.
When I played as Kitchee SC, I chose to experiment with a few things in the first season [mainly trying players in new positions], and I still was able to comfortably achieve the club’s goals.
Moving forwards, the challenge will be to bring in better foreign players, which will help in the club’s quest for making a surge in continental competition.
It’s those competitions that are the real test for you, because domestically: you're likely to be dominant for the entirety of your save.
4. Selangor FC - Malaysia
We head back to South-East Asia for the next club, and rather than going with the obvious choice within the Malaysian Super League [Johor DT], I implore you to go with the team that’s intent on dethroning them in real life: Selangor FC.
When you take a look at their squad, you’ll instantly notice the quality that they have, and if you can get them clicking quickly… you could be onto something special.
Selangor are well financed in real life, and one of their shareholder is the Crown Prince of Selangor Darul Ehsan. In short: don’t worry about your finances too much.
SI have made a minor mistake with the way that they’ve put together the Selangor squad, which is due to the fact that the Selangor reserve team plays in the Malaysian Premier League.
It means that they have signed 4 foreign players for that team also, but when putting the Selangor squad together, SI haven’t put the 4 ‘reserve’ team players with the relevant squad status for their playing time expectations. 2 of them are correct: 2 of them aren't.
It gives you a bit of a juggling act in a way, but I was able to keep everyone ‘in check’ and there wasn’t anyone creating a rift within the squad. Apart from that: SI has captured the ability of the Selangor FC squad quite well.
The strength of the foreign players at the club is high, and you have a serious dilemma in who you choose to pick in your squad every matchday.
It’ll all depend on how you elect to set-up tactically, but in the form of Oliver Buff, Manuel Konrad, Timothy Heubach, and Ifedayo Olusegun: you have 4 players that are exceptional.
The Malaysian Super League operates with a ‘3+1+1’ policy in real life, but SI have only incorporated a ‘3+1’ policy, which will involve you having to rotate your players in order to keep everyone happy.
Fortunately, you don’t have to register anyone for the league, so there’ll be no hurt feelings from anyone not being selected in a squad.
It’s also worth mentioning that the contracts of Oliver Buff, Manuel Konrad, Timothy Heubach, and Ifedayo Olusegun all expire at the end of the first season, which will give you some flexibility if you wish to go in a different direction.
Personally, I attempted to keep them, but I also had a look around to see if there were players of similar ability that I could bring in on smaller wages.
It’s a personal preference of mine, but if you can keep them: you’ve kept quality players at the club.
When it comes to the tactical set-up of the club, it all comes down to your ‘take’ on the squad.
I think that the squad is full of quality central-defenders, but that decent fullbacks aren't available.
It’s a 3-2-2-2-1 [DM Wide] according to the game, and for me: it worked a treat. I'm not saying this is the only way to play as the club, but it’s a way to play to all of their strengths, and hide the weaknesses that the squad may have.
I also elected to play Manuel Konrad as a central-defender, instead of as a midfielder, but again: it was a personal preference.
The Selangor FC squad is so strong upon beginning the save that there's no real need for you to enter the transfer market, unless you wish to, whilst it’s also quite tough for you to move on any of your unwanted players too.
Your best chance of any maneuvering in the transfer market is during the mid-season window, which is when you can begin to approach players on pre-contract deals too.
In the first season, my main aim was to bring better staff in, work out who was worth keeping at the club long-term, as well as keeping an eye on the development of the young foreign players that should have been put in the Selangor II squad by SI.
It’s an embarrassment of riches almost: enjoy it, and good luck toppling Johor DT!
5. Aizawl FC - India
This is, without doubt, the ‘toughest’ of the teams that I've mentioned.
Aizawl FC start the game without a manager, and if you were to load up India and begin as an ‘unemployed’ manager: odds are they'd offer you an interview!
They're based in the state of Mizoram in northeast India, with them a little of 200km’s from the border to Myanmar [Burma].
What drew me to Aizawl was the picture I saw of their stadium, which appears to have a hell of a view in my opinion, and from there… I just began to ‘plot’ their rise to dominating domestic football in India.
With the Indian Super League not included by SI, that’ll help you in a way, mainly in the form of your recruitment.
Aizawl are predicted by the media to finish 9th in the first season, which would keep them well clear of relegation [only 1 club is relegated] in the 12-team league.
With that being said, the Indian Arrows can’t be relegated, so if they finish bottom, and you finish 11TH: you're going down. It’s harsh, but at the same time… it’s something to keep an eye on.
With Indian Arrows essentially an Under 21’s team to develop Indian players only [they can’t sign anyone over-21, nor anyone that isn't Indian], they're a team that you should be scouting year-round to ensure that you can ‘pick off’ their best players.
They’ve got the best facilities, and the best youth recruitment in the league: use it to your advantage!
One thing you have to remember about taking charge at Aizawl FC is this: this is a ‘long term’ save. It’s very likely that you’re going to need 2-3 years to get your squad to a point where you feel confident in its ability to do the things you ask of it.
India operates with a similar rule to that of Asian continental competitions regarding foreign players, and you’ll be limited to ‘3+1’ in your squad.
With you being unable to ‘naturalize’ players, it’s imperative that you get your foreign recruitment right, or you’ll be making your job that little bit tougher.
None of the foreign players that are at the club initially are going to scream ‘difference maker’ to you, and it’s up to you as to whether you keep them at the club long-term or not.
Just a heads up, but due to the fact that the players haven’t listed their heights on Wikipedia, it would appear that SI haven’t coded the players proper heights into their databases.
For that very reason, it’s all a bit of a lottery as to how big they are in your save, unless you load up the pre-game editor and fix it yourself. I found all their heights via Transfermarkt, which was a straightforward process.
It’ll help you to keep things tight at the back, whilst at the same time: you should still be strong going forward.
With additional central-defenders, you could push your recruitment in the direction of some ‘tall timber’ to make yourself a threat at set-pieces.
With a strong first season, you should [hopefully] get enough of a boost to your reputation to go out and sign some players that’ll push you towards a top-4 challenge.
It’ll all come down to recruitment at the end of the day, but at the same time: keep an eye on your finances!
The long-term aim of the club’s boardroom is for you to establish the club as one of the ‘best of the rest’, so really: their expectations of you are quite low.
Patience will be crucial throughout a save like this, but the feeling of satisfaction if you're able to win silverware whilst in charge of Aizawl will be well worth any ‘trauma’ that you suffer along the way.
If you're able to bring in good staff, and keep an eye on Indian Super League squads for expiring contracts: that’ll speed things up for you.
India is a great save on FM22, and even if you don’t take charge of this club: I recommend you try it at some stage.
So there you have it! 5 clubs: all a tremendous amount of fun.
I've completed a season with each of them, so feel free to PM me if you have any questions, or would like any tips.
There were a lot of other clubs that I could've written about, but for me: these were the ones that I was immediately interested in.
I really can’t recommend a save in Asia enough, because there’s just something so enjoyable about it.
Whilst it might seem that domestic success is able to be achieved quite quickly, it’s success on the continent that I've always found the hardest thing to achieve on any edition of Football Manager.
And if you're able to achieve that, good luck with the Club World Cup!