Football heroes reap their rewards

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Football heroes reap their rewards

The 2-2 draw with Nigeria that moved them into their first-ever Group of 16 match on foreign soil was reason enough for the national football team to celebrate.

Add in cash rewards and the possibility of being exempted from mandatory military service, and you’ve really got a party.

The announcement that Korea Football Association officials will recommend military exemptions for the team’s young players set off cheering in the locker rooms yesterday, and opened the doors for wider professional opportunities.

“Many of the [young] players want to play abroad, too, but mandatory military service makes that difficult,” said manager Huh Jung-moo. The benefit of the exemption, he says, is more experienced players on the Korean team next time around.

Team captain Park Ji-sung agrees. The exemption he earned himself by playing on the 2002 World Cup team freed him to sign with Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, which in turn led to a contract with Manchester United in the closing months of the 2004-05 season.

“The players who were exempted after the 2002 World Cup and went onto play in Europe had a big role on this team,” Park said. “If Korea is to continue to improve at the World Cup and close the gap with other teams, I think exemption from military service is a necessity.”

The national team members will also receive a hefty cash reward for their efforts. Depending on their performance, each Taegeuk Warrior will receive anywhere from 20 million won ($17,680) to 70 million won for their play in the group stage, and on top of that can expect a bonus between 70 million and 100 million won for making it to the Group of 16. If the team advances to the quarterfinals, the players will get another bonus just as big.

By Jason Kim []
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