King Cup will give fans a good gameIn July, Korean soccer fans will have an opportunity to watch quality clubs coming from five continents to play on the peninsula as the 2003 World Peace King Cup kicks off in Korea for the first time.
All in all, eight professional teams divided into two groups will play from July 15 till July 22. The top teams of each group will face each other at the Seoul World Cup stadium for the final match.
In one group, Seongnam Cheonma, representing Korea, will play with Bayern Leverkusen from Germany, Olympique Lyon from France and Kaizer Chiefs from South Africa.
PSV Eindhoven from the Netherlands, the Los Angeles Galaxy from the United States, Sao Paulo from Brazil and AS Roma from Italy will play in the other group.
The winner is slated to take home a $2 million purse, while second place gets $500,000.
Although the cup is not an event where national teams will compete at top playing level, judging from some impressive resumes, the games should give any serious soccer fan some quality matches to chew on.
Olympique Lyon hit some rough patches in the early and mid ‘80s as the team dropped down to the French second division, but since 1989 it has been back with a vengeance in the first division; it was champion for the 2001-2002 season.
Bayern Leverkusen is not as famous as the other German team that bears a similar name, Bayern Muenchen. But being a well-playing member of the German Bundesliga with Oliver Neuville, a star in last year’s World Cup, means this team can perform at a very high level.
Founded in 1970, Kaizer Chiefs has been the South African Premier Soccer League champ nine times, while it won 10 times at Cup events. Its most recent win was the 2001 African Cup Winners Cup.
Probably the club best known to Koreans, due to coach Guus Hiddink and Korean players such as Lee Young-pyo and Park Ji-sung, is PSV Eindhoven, currently sitting at the top of the Dutch First Division.
AS Roma, which has been around since 1927, is another history-rich European soccer club. It won the 2001 Italian Serie A and has high profile players like midfielder Francesco Totti on its roster.
Representing the North American continent, the LA Galaxy is the youngest club to be invited to the cup. In 2002 it clinched the Major League Soccer crown and added the ever-famous Korean Hong Myung-bo to anchor its defense.
The Brazilian club Sao Paolo will add an essential Brazilian soccer flavor to the cup, and with three World Cup members on its roster, many, including myself, expect this team to go far.
Seongnam is the best Korean soccer club, with five K-league titles clinched since its founding in 1988.
The winner? Judging from recent performance at home, my guess is that from group A, Lyon will emerge as the winner, with Seongnam the runner-up. Again, Sao Paolo seems a strong candidate to take Group B, but PSV Eindhoven should have a legitimate shot, as well. But in the case of this competition, it’s not who wins, but how the game is played.
by Brian Lee