Let’s keep soccer to the feet, not fistsNot long ago, Yoo Sang-chul, a forward who plays for Ulsan Tigers and as well as for the national team, was the subject of much praise. The day after he competed in the exhibition match with Colombia on March 29, he went right back to play for Ulsan.
Fans were delighted to see Yoo compete on March 30 and even more delighted to watch him score as Ulsan beat the Bucheon SK, 2-1. Many hailed Yoo as a true professional who never missed a match.
On Wednesday, when Ulsan played the Busan Icons, Yoo suddenly went from iron man to hothead.
At the time, Yoo’s physical condition was less than 100 percent. He was still recovering from an injury to his right ankle that occurred during a team practice. Due to the injury, he did not play in a loss to the Anyang Cheetahs on April 26, but suited up four days later.
After Busan’s Lee Jang-kwan tackled Yoo 24 minutes into the second half, both players got into a brawl in which Yoo landed a punch on Lee’s jaw. As Yoo was escorted from the pitch he still tried to get at Lee and had to be further restrained.
Athletes are humans and subject to the same emotional roller coaster rides as nonathletes. Yoo, as captain of a squad that at the beginning of the season was considered to have the best lineup but has wound up hanging around the the middle of the 12-team K-League, must have been greatly annoyed. When Yoo didn’t play against Anyang, which blitzed Ulsan 3-0, his anger surely mounted even more.
But Yoo should never have used his fists to express his frustrations. I don't care whether the tackler came onto him like a wild boar, the fight should not have happened.
First, there are practical reasons for fights to not occur. According to the rules of the K-League, Yoo’s act falls into the category of violent acts against players or other soccer officials, and carries a suspension punishment of at least six matches, with a maximum 10-game suspension. The fine is 1 million won ($781) per game, which the player must pay out of his own pocket.
Besides the money, the leadership absence of Yoo will have a great impact on Ulsan. The Tigers need a focal point that can streamline the team's effort on the field now more than ever. Needless to say, Yoo’s playing abilities will be missed as well. Without a scoring threat, I would be surprised if Ulsan wins more than half of the matches that it has to play without Yoo.
Second, athletes, especially those of the caliber of Yoo who command a tremendous following among the public, have to hold themselves to much higher standards than the average guy on the street. I don't need to tell you why; it just comes with the territory. Otherwise, we’ll have kids at the next peewee soccer match practicing punches and newly learned taekwondo kicks.
There are rules to deal with Yoo’s actions, and in my opinion breaking those rules should carry the strongest penalties. Such behavior on and off the field is just not acceptable. People can suffer severe injuries from a simple punch to the head.
It’s just like working in a company alongside someone you detest. You might think vaguely of punching him, but you never, ever do it.
by Brian Lee