Former national player living large in Austria
“I was on the airplane bound for Korea when the draw to select each group was going on,” Seo said. “I asked about the result at Incheon International Airport, and they said, ‘It’s good that Korea is in the same group as Switzerland.’ I said to myself, we’re in trouble. Why Switzerland? If Korea takes Switzerland too lightly, they’ll have a big problem.
“Most European soccer teams have some star players. They boost their team’s competitiveness but often spoil the team play. Swiss players are not as distinguished, but they are dedicated, hardworking and are well integrated as a team. Watching the World Cup qualifying games on television, I felt the team had a strong defense and midfield.
Seo, who has played for Strasbourg in the French league, added that Korea would have better chances for its game against France if its players are not timid and take advantage of the team’s strength in speed and team play.
Despite his nickname, “Quick boy,” Seo has quietly and slowly moved his way up. Seo played in the World Cup in Italy in 1990, the United States in 1994 and France in 1998. In 2004, he became a player coach for Suwon Samsung and led the team to victory in the K-League. He moved to Austria when he was 35, playing 12 games for ASK-Salzburg before moving to SV Ried in June this year. He has played all 22 games in the first half of the 2005-2006 season and scored seven goals. On Dec. 15, Kurier, a major Austrian daily, named Seo the “best player of the year.”
In the small city of Ried with 15,000 residents, Seo is a celebrity ― restaurants offer him free meals and golf courses let him play for free.
Asked the secret of his longevity as a player, Seo said it was because of his “customary abstinence.” He does not drink alcohol, smoke or drink coffee. After scoring a goal and winning a game, he says to himself, “Today is over. All of this will become a memory next day. I need to get ready again.”
“I made up my mind that I wouldn’t participate in outside events if it was not necessary, and if there were two such occasions to go to, I would go to just one. It was difficult in the beginning, but it is natural now,” Seo said.
Seo is family-oriented: He is the youngest of seven brothers and sisters, who he meets at his parents’ house when he comes back to visit Korea. These days, when he has spare time, he travels with his family to the Czech Republic and Germany.
Some fans have called for Seo to be put back on the national squad, but if he were picked, he would be competing with players more than 10 years younger.
“If the country needs me, I will definitely go. But I don’t think about competing. As a senior player, I would do my best for the team’s stability,” Seo said.
Seo hopes to become an experienced and able coach. He went to Austria to get more experience as a coach and when he retires from playing, again, he plans to stay in Europe to gain more experience. The supposed “Quick boy,” it appears, carefully plots his moves.
by Jeong Young-jae