After scandal hits military team, a new goalie arrivesThe K-League’s Sangju Sangmu Phoenix, a football club comprised entirely of military soldiers, is about to get a new reserve goalkeeper after three of its four goalkeepers were indicted in a match-fixing scandal that rocked the sport last month.
The Sangju, North Gyeongsang-based team revealed last week that goalkeeper Lee Sang-ki of Suwon Samsung Bluewings has decided to do his military service and will be eligible to join the military’s athletic squad late this month. Because Sangmu is comprised of footballers doing their mandatory military service, the team can’t select a player who is not a soldier.
Lee turned pro after signing with Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma last year, but has yet to actually play in a K-League game. He did, however, play in five matches last year in the R-League, a league for reserve K-League players, and transferred to Suwon this year.
A Sangmu official told the Ilgan Sports that although Lee is currently the sole player to fill the military club’s goal-keeping void, the team has yet to confirm if he will officially join because there could still be more applicants with one more day to apply to play on Sangmu. The club will announce its new goalkeeper next Monday.
Lee will also have to pass a medical exam on Thursday to play behind starting goalkeeper Kwoun Sun-tae. If Lee successfully passes the medical exam and the rest of the procedures, he will begin basic military training immediately and can start playing football again on Aug. 4.
Sangmu has been struggling badly since last month. Amid a match-fixing scandal that rocked the country’s top football division, the team that once topped the league is now 13th in the 16-team K-League table, thanks in large part to a six-match losing streak.
Sangmu was hit the hardest by the match-rigging scandal. Of the 46 active and former K-League players who were indicted, the Sangju club lost nine players, more than any other team. And its head coach, Lee Soo-cheol, was arrested by military prosecutors last Monday after being accused of blackmailing and taking cash from the players’ parents to overlook the player’s match-fixing activities.
Last weekend against FC Seoul, Sangju was even without Kwoun, who was serving a one-game suspension, and had to play defender Lee Yoon-eui in front of the net. It was the first time in K-League history that a defender played as goalkeeper in a full 90-minute match. Though Kwoun returned to defend the goal against Busan I’Park FC on Saturday, Sangju had no goalkeeper to back up him and still had Lee Yoon-eui as its reserve goalkeeper.
Meanwhile, other K-league teams that lost players after the match-fixing scandal have also found new players to fill up empty roster spots. Busan, which lost four defenders, has already signed four new defenders. Daegu and the Chunnam Dragons have promoted reserve team members.
By Kim Hyo-kyung, Joo Kyung-don [email@example.com]
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