[SPORTS VIEW]Thanks a lot, coach; now hit the road

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[SPORTS VIEW]Thanks a lot, coach; now hit the road

In the Middle Ages knights were the backbone of any combat force. At the climax of a battle ironclad knights would charge on their horses -- nothing could withstand this storm. In order to become a knight, boys trained rigorously from a very young age. Candidates were selected and then sent off to serve as a page in a lord's castle. In due time they would become squires for knights. All along they would learn from the very best. In this way the kingdom remained strong.

Like those knights, today's athletes need the best training available. Sure, there are born athletes. But to get the most of their raw talent they need high quality instruction. So it is important that they be supervised by the best coaches.

Korea's under-14 soccer team has had as its coach Abraham Braam, a native of the Netherlands, for the last two years. Under his leadership the team recently won the East Asian Cup for the under-age-14 category, defeating Japan last month, 5-1.

But Braam has announced that he will step down as coach, and leave Korea for good next week. Why did he quit? "They [local soccer officials] told me that there would be no contract extension and that they wanted to hand over the job to the Korean coaches," he said. In my eyes, this is both wrongheaded and an injustice. Braam has proven himself an effective coach. Why replace someone who is successful at training our young players?

After news of the resignation broke, the Web site of the Korea Football Association was bombarded with messages from outraged fans. A typical one said, "What kind of club are you trying to run there?"

Most of the complaints criticized a comment made by a soccer official, who said that it was time to let domestic coaches take over the job because they have learned Braam's coaching methods.

I doubt that two years is enough to change the fundamentals of Korean soccer and the way Korean coaches train. To elevate local players into an advanced soccer system and culture, training under coaches who have grown up under those circumstances from the very beginning is needed. None of the Korean coaches has such experience. Abraham Braam does.

I still don't have confidence in Korea's coaches -- at least not for now. They had their chances for decades, and proved unfit for the job. This is something that all the fans seem to understand but the association ignores.

Insiders say that the real reason for Braam's departure was communication problems. For the sake of the association, I hope that "communication" means just that -- not that Braam didn't toe the line. Too often we have seen good people sacked because the association considered them uncontrollable.

And some people say the association did not have enough money to retain the Dutch coach. If that is true, it's an outrage. Young players are the future of Korea's soccer program, in which the country takes so much pride. I don't know what the cost of the recent friendly match with Brazil was, but I know it was more than Braam's annual salary.

Maybe it just means that there is not enough money to go around among the fat cats who make such stupid decisions at the top.

by Brian Lee

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