[SPORTS VIEW]When soccer stars see cash, they jumpThe Dutch sailor Hendrick Hammel is known for his 17th century journal introducing the peninsula for the first time to the Western world. When his ship became stranded on Jeju Island, he lingered on the peninsula for 13 years.
Three hundred and 50 years later, Guus Hiddink, the former Dutch coach of Korea's national soccer team, which finished fourth in the 2002 World Cup, has followed a similar path. Only this time a Dutchman is introducing something －－ Korean soccer players －－ to his native country.
Hiddink signed Park Ji-sung and Lee Young-Pyo, both of whom played in the World Cup, to his Dutch team PSV Eindhoven. The next candidate up is Lee Cheon-su, scheduled for an April debut, according to Lee's agent. Choi Seong-guk and Jeong Jo-guk have also been discussed by the Dutch coach and media for possible recruitment. And the list goes on, with high schooler Kim Dong-hyun headed for a test run this summer.
If everything goes right, Eindhoven might become a mini version of the Korean national team, with Koreans accounting for at least half of the squad provided they all start. Surely, playing abroad and learning from the best is commendable, but an overload of Korean players does not seem right to me, especially when the Dutch team is doing all the scouting. It may be a much-ado-about-nothing hunch, but here is what is bothering me the most.
Never mind that they failed to show up in the World Cup, the Netherlands is without doubt a force to be reckoned with in the soccer world. And yes, they are still my favorite team on my Sony Playstation video game. But in the realm of pro soccer leagues, the one in Netherlands is not on par with others, such as the Spanish Primera, the series A Italian soccer league or the English premier league. And that's no secret.
Many second-tier teams make money by acquiring players cheaply and reselling them to first-tier leagues. When players sign contracts to play abroad, one other factor they consider besides greenbacks is the amount of playing time they will get; naturally, players want to play. Needless to say, the player's agents are even more interested in their playing time since it acts as a leverage when they negotiate broadcasting rights with TV stations.
Apart from the possibility that Korean players may not have the stuff that top European leagues are looking for, the greed exhibited by agents who are hungrier for quick cash instead of players' long term development might be one reason that Korean players are on an exodus to the Netherlands and not other top-rated leagues' teams, which may offer less money and playing time at the moment but an opportunity to learn from the best.
Being on the team but sitting on the bench is not the end of the world. It only means you learn from the best while sitting and get to play later when you are ready. Players must make a decision that is not based on some agent's sweet talk but on what will pay off in the long run. For Korean soccer players, learning solid skills is the most important thing right now but resisting hard cash thrown at them surely won't be easy. I just hope they remember that everyone is doing it for business and that may even include the coach who hires them.
by Brian Lee
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