New Dutch skipper facing choppy waters

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New Dutch skipper facing choppy waters

You know who they are. You know the way they do things over there: “my way.” You know that for over a decade the same people have been in control. We’re talking about the Korea Football Association.
Last week, Korea’s most powerful soccer body announced that another Dutchman, by the name of Johannes-Franciscus Bonfrere, is going to lead the national squad.
That our soccer team has finally landed a skipper is good news. That he’s come with a recommendation from Guus Hiddink proves that the Dutch really do go Dutch. His long name is bound to become the butt of jokes if he should screw up.
The only thing that rubs me the wrong way about Bonfrere is that he came out of nowhere. Literally. He wasn’t in the final four candidate list announced earlier by the KFA, and he wasn’t even part of the top-10 roster that was announced before that.
This could only mean that the shortlists previously handed out by the KFA meant nothing to begin with; the soccer federation had set their sights on a single candidate from the start. Barring that, maybe no one good was to be had, as the European leagues had already made all of their coaching changes and the KFA had to settle for someone else.
Either way, I am willing to let this matter drop for the sake of getting our squad on track, because they have a long way to go.
From now on, everyone, and I mean everyone ― the press, the fans, the KFA ― has got to develop a new attitude about the national team. Otherwise, Bonfrere’s days as head coach will be fewer than Napoleon’s 100 days and it won’t be much different with a different successor.
OK, so our squad’s talent still ranks at the top among Asian countries. But a number of things have changed since the 2002 World Cup. Some star players, like Hong Myeong-bo, have retired. Let’s remember that Hong is a one-of-a-kind player. Whoever replaces him ― at this time that would be Cho Byeong-guk ― can’t fill his shoes.
Let’s also not forget that the task of the new head coach will be to uncover new talent. A successful generation change is needed, and that change is going to take place without the luxury of much team training. Some lost games go with the territory, and for the time being it looks as if our team has taken a step backward.
As Kim Ho, the former Suwon Samsung Bluewings coach, points out, the unconditional support that took place in 2002 comes but once in a lifetime. And so were the results.
“It won’t happen again,” said Kim, and anyone with more brain matter than an amoeba should know that. For others still dreaming of a repeat, two words: You’re nuts (although I’d be more than happy to eat my words in this case).
The players’ individual skills have improved, but we won’t be able to play fine-tuned soccer for lack of the finesse possessed by the Spaniards or South Americans. Modeling ourselves on the German approach, which isn’t fancy but features an efficient playing style and strong teamwork backed by plenty of stamina, is more sensible.
Above all, what we need is patience and the willingness to accept losses, even from countries that aren’t supposed to beat us on paper. Scheduling games with teams that we can learn from would also be a fine thought. There are plenty of ’em out there.


by Brian Lee
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