[VIEWPOINT]Korean soccer needs samba lesson

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[VIEWPOINT]Korean soccer needs samba lesson

We have had many chances to watch soccer on television recently.
We saw South and North Korea vying for the AFC Youth Championship and there was a friendly game between South Korea’s and Japan’s Olympic teams, the ultimate rivals.
There was also the qualifying tournament of the AFC Asian Cup. Our national team, which will represent South Korea at the Asian Games in Doha, played against Iran and lost 2-0. During the same period of time when the above international games were staged, we also had the conclusion of the K-league regular season with a play-off and championship competition that decided the best club in the K-League.
Of course, we must not forget to mention the great news that our pro-team, Jeonbuk Hyundai, were the winners of the AFC Champions League.
However, the procession of festivities was overshadowed somewhat by the internal problems in Korean soccer. Namely, the conflict between Korea’s national team coach, Pim Verbeek, and the coaches of the K-League clubs over calling up players to play for the national team.
The Korean Football Association and the Korean Professional Football League failed to settle the conflict in a rational way.
As a result, the players had to suffer from a packed game schedule and long traveling distances which had an adverse impact on their physical condition.
Despite strong opposition from the coaches of Seongnam Ilhwa and Suwon Samsung, whose teams vied for the K-League championship, four players from these teams were included in the national team that traveled to Iran for the controversial qualifying round match against Iran.
It was especially regretted that Kim Doo-hyun of Seongnam Ilhwa was taken to Iran despite being injured.
He ended up sitting on the bench throughout the game.
Verbeek emphasizes that the players were included in a list he sent to the players’ clubs in advance, and that he did not violate any of the rules of FIFA or the local rules of the Korean Football Association.
On the other hand, the K-League coaches point out that it is a problem for them if the national coach summons players to a relatively unimportant match right before the league championship play-off game, which is the most important game of the year for the K-League and an occasion when league players should be rested enough to demonstrate their best playing techniques.
One of the virtues required by a national team coach is the ability to maintain good relations with club coaches.
For instance, coach Sven-Goran Eriksson of England always included players only after he received the consent of their clubs.
However, Verbeek has failed to show the operational skill of asking the help of club coaches for important matches, while conceding to their demands over unimportant issues.
I cannot help but ask whether he would have acted the same way, if he were dealing with his homeland’s league championship, between famous teams like Ajax and PSV Eindhoven.
The action he has taken this time is inconsistent with his frequent appearances at K-League games to watch Korean players.
He needs to patch up his relationship with club coaches as a matter of urgency.
This is a different issue, but there is also a need to reconsider the unified system where coach Verbeek is in charge of all three national teams, for the FIFA World Cup, for the Asian Games and the Olympic Games. There are too many players to be managed by a coaching staff of four, including the head coach.
This system cannot be effective in the case of emergency situations such as when Afshin Ghotbi’s entry into Iran was refused, or the national team’s packed schedule in November.
In Korea, any game that features the national team is treated like a FIFA World Cup match. And this unique soccer culture of Korea imposes a heavy burden of expectations on the coach of our national team. This leads to unreasonable management of players.
If we want to give a chance to as many good players as possible to participate in different national teams, we should not be so obsessed about victory in every single game.
Four years have passed since South Korea achieved the “World Cup semi-final legend.”
It is now time for us to look for an answer to the oft-repeated question: “Why have we failed to improve to an even more advanced stage after oursuccess at the World Cup 2002?”
Brazil, a country that all soccer fans in the world acknowledge as a leading soccer power, has provided a turning point by recruiting a young coach, Carlos Dunga, and carrying out a drastic generational change after its defeat in the 2006 World Cup.
Korea can learn a lesson from Brazil.

*The writer is an MBC ESPN soccer commentator and an official FIFA agent. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Chung Hyo-woong
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