K-League’s Chung faces tough questions from coachesCan you imagine Charlie Brown telling Snoopy he couldn’t have any more cookies? Can you image Calvin telling Hobbes that he was going to become a good boy? No. Yet some people in the soccer community are trying to do the unthinkable. We are talking about the unseating of Chung Mong-joon, president of the Korea Football Association, who has acted in that capacity for the last 12 years.
If you remember, I predicted six months ago that something of a “revolution” would arise in the soccer community. I said so because, after chatting with Kim Ho, the former head coach of the Suwon Samsung Bluewings, and some other coaches, I sensed that distrust of Chung was quite high.
That distrust surfaced recently when former and current coaches held a press conference and openly challenged Chung to come to an open forum and answer some tough questions. Among them was whether the KFA would be willing to undergo a tax investigation. “The association has grown larger and larger. Yet, we have no idea how the money is spent,” said one coach.
Without taking sides, I think this particular question is fair. If there is nothing to hide, why not open the books?
People in the soccer community have complained that Chung failed to build on the success of the 2002 World Cup, as the K-League has seen declining numbers of fans attending stadiums. The argument here is that without a healthy professional league there can be no national squad.
During the World Cup, professional teams gave unprecedented cooperation to the KFA by allowing players to be called on for training at any time. The anti-Chung camp argues that although current rules prevent a repetition, if the KFA continues to work as if the national squad is the only game in town the future of Korean soccer is bleak. You can’t argue with that. The domestic league serves as a pool from which national players emerge.
Chung is slated to be a vice president of FIFA until 2008. Bringing the World Cup to this country was a great thing. I enjoyed it. I loved the experience. And I am still thankful to Chung for making it possible. But having said that, I was not happy when he tried to run for the Korean presidency again.
He should have resigned from his post but he didn’t, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt Chung had used soccer as a tool to further his political career. Could it be that he wants to hold on to his seat because he still aspires to become president? Nobody knows, because he won’t tell and he doesn’t give interviews; believe me, I have tried in the past.
Getting the national squad into the 2006 World Cup and performing well is important. Nevertheless, we need a balanced approach here. If half of the energy that was used to bring the World Cup here were used to develop the domestic league, we would have a solid foundation from which we would benefit in the long term.
Chung can help. He has the resources, and if he pledges to throw his weight behind the domestic soccer league, I think many people would stop insisting on changes at the KFA because they know there is no better person than Chung to do the job. Now if he could just compromise.
by Brain Lee
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