When battlefields impact playing fieldsThe first round of playoffs for the Korean Basketball League starts Saturday. The Korean baseball series begins in October, unless Kim Jong-il decides to march into Seoul. But there won’t be, at least for the time being, a World Youth Championship in soccer that was scheduled to start March 25.
FIFA has postponed South Korea’s match in the United Arab Emirates due to safety concerns involving the pending war with Iraq.
Korea’s national soccer team is also facing disappointment. The Korea Football Association has decided that a four-nation tournament that begins today in Malaysia will be the team’s last training session until the association deems world travel conditions to be safe enough.
But hey, there is a bright spot in these delays. The unexpected adjournment will give Korea a much-needed break for its injury-depleted midfield. Kim Seong-hyeong, a backbone of the midfield, will have more time to heal his bum knee. The same goes for two other midfielders, Lee Hyo-jin and Yeo Hyo-jin, whose slow recovery from banged-up bodies has forced coach Park Seong-hwa to place lesser talent into their positions.
In addition, an opportunity to summon Kwon Jip, who is competing in Germany for FC Koln, is not going to happen for a while. Kwon is simply doing too well in the Bundesliga.
Although this unexpected break for injuries comes at an appropriate time, the delay brings also a new factor into the upcoming competition that cannot be ignored. Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, has said that he won’t change the site of the World Youth Championships, but will only postpone the date for the soccer championships.
If a war starts at the end of this month or early next month, and if the Iraq situation is cleared up within a month, and if the rebuilding phase of Iraq takes, say, two more months, pushing back the championship to July will be tricky. The weather factor then is going to weigh heavily on each team.
We also have to consider that all these assumptions are subject to change.
That Korea is in the same group as Germany in the World Youth Championships may be to Korea’s benefit. In July, playing amid the excruciating heat of the Mideast, soccer players are going to drip perspiration by the bucket. By the second half they are going to appear wilted -- if they’re still breathing.
Scheduling friendly matches in torrid overseas climes sometimes can’t be avoided, though. Don’t know which desert to play? How about a friendly in Libya, in front of Moammar Gadhafi’s tent?
Recently,Gadhafi’s son Al-Saadi told CNNSI of his intentions to make his nation into a soccer power. Maybe he wouldn’t mind playing Korea, which did well in the last World Cup. What about it, Korea Football Association?
But then again, considering Libya’s explosive past, perhaps that nation is not the best place to play.
Alas, how nice would it be if differences could only be settled on the soccer field rather than on the battlefield. If that were the case, we would probably have a championship ever y week -- not whenever it’s safe.
by Brian Lee