Next soccer coach deserves support, not quick blameOfficials with the Korea Football Association said it would be impossible to get a new coach for the national team by the end of this month. Next month, the team is scheduled to play two friendly exhibition games against Turkey, and a World Cup qualifying game against Vietnam. All three games are planned within the first two weeks of June.
This means the team will be under the guidance of Park Sung-hwa, the interim coach. Even if the association is able to ink a deal with someone by then, it will not make any difference. There will be no time to implement the new coach’s philosophy.
We should not rush things just for the sake of having a coach on the bench. Instead, we have to remember why we are bringing in a foreign coach.
Until we have a soccer infrastructure that makes it possible to groom future leaders with the skills to coach at the international level, we should listen, watch and learn.
Anything we can provide to the new coach, we have to give. Blaming someone without giving them full support is just not the right thing to do anymore.
Humberto Coelho was a brave man to step into Guus Hiddink’s footsteps. But he gravely overestimated the support he would get. When Hiddink first came, he had two months to practice with the team. From then on, he summoned the team whenever necessary. During those first two months, he was able to analyze the players and come up with a master plan.
Coelho never had that luxury. Instead, he had professional teams refusing to send players. The stand taken by the K-League teams is understandable. As Kim Ho, then the Samsung Bluewings’ head coach, points out, professional teams had made too many sacrifices prior to and during the World Cup. “We got our honor. But looking back, in terms of development of our soccer infrastructure, we actually took a step back,” the coach told me.
Whereas Hiddink used the media to bring out the best in the team, making even established players compete for the lineup, Coelho never had a chance to do so. He felt pressure to satisfy a public whose expectations had been raised. The old guard remained intact.
As it is, the days of practicing together for a long period are over now. With professional teams and the KFA firmly entrenched behind the new call-up rules for the national team that were established last year, Korea has to field its team like most of the European teams do. That’s two days before a Class A international match, and a month before the World Cup.
With a couple of players currently abroad, it’s hard to imagine that any future coach will be able to have the full team always at his disposal. Unlike domestic clubs that often had to bow to public pressure, foreign clubs are not likely to bend the rules to satisfy the Korean public. The strong teamwork that has always been the trademark of the national team has to be built in whatever time is available.
Needless to say, the KFA needs to shield the coach from the public in case results are disappointing. It should not bail out when short-fused fans cry for someone to take the blame. An old tactic, used too often. Not only in success but in failure, everyone in the KFA needs to be on the same page.
by Brian Lee