Kids, and mom, getting a kick out of soccer
Maybe someday, one of these kids will grow up to run out on the pitch in Manchester the way Park Ji-sung does. For now, they’re just kids in an after-school soccer club.
“Many of my friends joined soccer clubs in groups of three or four,” said Kim Ji-su, 7, a first-grade student who joined the club two months ago. “When I score a goal and shout hurrah, I feel like I’m a real soccer player.”
After-school soccer might seem ordinary to people from Europe or America, where there are no longer mothers, only “soccer moms.” But with the World Cup just around the corner and memories of Korea’s success in the last round still fresh, the number of children playing soccer in clubs here has only just begun to boom.
More parents want their children to learn how to play soccer after school or on weekends, and the growing number of teams makes it easier for coaches to arrange games.
Seoul is estimated to have over 500 soccer clubs for children, a number that has doubled since 2002. Since April 13, the clubs have also had their own league, organized by the MBC Youth Football Foundation; 490 teams participate.
“In the past, parents thought that playing soccer would interrupt their kids’ studies, but their perception has changed,” said Yu Jeong-won, an employee at the league. “The number of clubs has grown explosively. More than 100 are expected to be launched around the World Cup.”
Youth soccer clubs normally hold one to three practice sessions a week. Membership costs 50,000 won ($53) to 100,000 won a month. Some clubs have their own practice grounds, while others use school facilites nearby.
Youth soccer clubs saw the number of their members increase twofold or threefold, in part because it provides exercise for only a small fee. If the club is licensed by a famous soccer player such as Cha Bum-kun or Hong Myong-bo, the waiting list can easily exceed 100 children.
“There are 180 children waiting to be listed for weekend classes,” said an employee at the soccer club run by Cha. “They’ll have to wait for a month or even two months to become regular members.”
Enter the soccer mom: With the growing popularity of youth clubs, Korean mothers have also gotten into the act, balancing their childrens’ schooling and scheduling. Some even act as managers.
“There are many parents who teach their children to play soccer when they reach the age of seven,” said one housewife who comes out to see her son play soccer every week.
Some mothers even chip in to help teams afford better equipment. According to Nike Korea, the sales of sports uniforms and equipment for children have increased one and half times from last year.
“The youth soccer club boom is satisfying the needs of children who do not have enough chance and space to play and exercise,” said Shin Jong-ho, an education professor at Seoul National University.
by Chun Kang-hyun