[OUTLOOK]Building on our soccer success

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[OUTLOOK]Building on our soccer success

Admirable! I applaud the Korean team that has hurdled the European soccer teams and played leaving nothing to desire. The play of the national team in the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan, which had undergone a great change, was worthy of the world's highest admiration.

The awesome invincible spirit of the Korean team members could be a milestone in the 72-year history of World Cup games. How can we explain the mysterious spirit, which seems nearly supernatural?

Since 1986, Korea has appeared in every World Cup with strong results in elimination matches. The reports of the Federation Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, called Korea's World Cup appearances "mysterious?" The country has only 397 professional soccer players and 17,000 registered players, including elementary school students.

The country's 20-year-old professional soccer league has only 10 teams. Though the national soccer team's matches against foreign countries have attracted a number of spectators, domestic league games have been sparsely attended. If FIFA could have seen the shameful scene, it would have been even more puzzled about Korea's World Cup appearances.

The shouts of the "red flood" that surprised the world's media can be summarized as "dynamic," "certain victory," and "upgrade." They are key words of Korean soccer. The Korean team's unique dynamic play, its insatiable will of certain victory and its miraculous ascent to the world's top level have become a paragon of soccer.

Through these World Cup games, the view of Korean soccer has changed from regret to joy. Repeated failure during the 48-year-old challenge for Korean soccer has become a driving force behind the realization of the dream. And we have proved the surprising power of joy during the World Cup games.

But we should realize that the hopeful message of Korean soccer during this World Cup includes some warnings; they have left many lessons and many questions.

One of the lessons is that we should open our mind to the world. The success of Guus Hiddink, the coach of the Korean team, resulted from his fairness, the giving of priority to pure ability and placing no emphasis on connections.

But the success also resulted from his thorough comprehension of European soccer. The slogans of the opening ceremony of the World Cup games, "communication and harmony" with the world, will improve Korean soccer.

Korea should send promising domestic soccer players to foreign professional leagues to raise their competitiveness and should frequently hold international A-matches.

Korea also should make a new reform program to boost the domestic professional soccer league in order to prevent the success of Korean soccer in this World Cup from vaporizing. It could be difficult to give every city a professional team. But the government should take measures to lead an effort to make sure cities that have World Cup stadiums have a franchise team.

The government also should promote inter-Korean soccer exchanges and the creation of an East Asian league that includes Korea, Japan and China. The East Asian league should incorporate the European system, holding annual championships.

The government also should nurture youth soccer teams. Without these long-term visions, it will be difficult for Korea to maintain the lofty status gained from its surprising performance until the 2006 World Cup games to be held in Germany.

We should make soccer a hobby for ordinary people in order to nurture a soccer culture. If these post-World Cup programs are achieved, the successful results of the World Cup, which pleased Koreans and impressed the world, will not fade but continue shining for a long time to come.


The writer is a guest professor at Myongji University.

by Lee Tae-yeong

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