Players work to kick discriminationKey members of the national football team, which recently reached the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup, are gathering in Ansan, Gyeonggi, this weekend in an effort to connect with multicultural families.
An all-star team of players such as Park Chu-young, Lee Chung-yong, Ki Sung-yueng and Lee Young-pyo will play in a friendly match against Ansan Hallelujah F.C., a second-tier National League club, in Ansan on Saturday, starting at 5 p.m.
“An all-star team consisting of key members from the World Cup squad and the Ansan Hallelujah F.C. team will play in a friendly match in an effort to help multicultural families,” said a Hallelujah official. “Most members of the national team accepted the offer without much hesitation.”
Also appearing in the game will be Kim Dong-jin and Jung Sung-ryong. Team captain Park Ji-sung is recovering from an ankle injury suffered during the second round match against Uruguay and will watch the game from the sidelines. The players will participate in the game wearing uniforms prepared by the Hallelujah F.C.
Ansan currently boasts one of the most diverse populations in Korea, and as such, city officials have been working to support multicultural families. According to registered figures produced by the city - “The Borderless Village” in Wongok-dong - Ansan boasts 34,500 people representing 62 nations.
“We are hoping by providing children from multicultural families with the opportunity to attend a game featuring the Taegeuk Warriors, kids will come away with a different outlook on Korea,” said an organizer. “It will be a game in which we will be able to relive the excitement of the 2010 South Africa World Cup.”
As the Taegeuk Warriors continue their hectic schedule, they are also expected to attend a dinner with President Lee Myung-bak at the Blue House.
President Lee is currently on a three-nation visit to North and Central America, but the dinner is scheduled to take place on July 5. The possibility of the national team players being exempted from mandatory military service is expected to be brought up at the dinner.
Korea Football Association President Cho Jung-yeon had stated he would request an exemption for the players after Korea secured a place in the second round after a 2-2 tie with Nigeria on June 22. Members of the 2002 team who had not already served their country were exempted from their mandatory military service after reaching the second round for the first time.
The Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Culture & Tourism have not been receptive to the idea. Both ministries have stated it will need to “carefully evaluate the situation in order to maintain fairness with athletes competing in other sports.”
In response, the KFA is expected to tweak its request. Instead of an exemption, they are expected to request the government defer the mandatory military service until the age of 35 for its players. The reasoning behind such a suggestion would be that it would allow the young players an opportunity to develop in professional leagues abroad before they make good on their mandatory military service once their playing days are over.
By Choi Won-chang, Kim Jong-ryok [firstname.lastname@example.org]