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Time to Stand On Its Own

Posted July. 08, 2002 22:38,   


The Korean team needs a new challenge. What we have achieved together so far has to be evaluated and analyzed. It also needs time without my presence. The Korean team now has the capacity to resolve and determine things on its own.

I am rather more interested in the future of Korea’s soccer. I believed and still believe that Korea’s future lies in the young players (Choi Sung-Guk and Jung Chong-Guk). That is why I have retained lots of them, who were in Korea’s youth team. I think the only way I can pay back Koreans’ love for me is to help Korea’s team move up fundamentally into the world’s top class.

It was reported that I would bring some of the players along with me. In some respects, that’s true. I have to talk more with my club. Anyway, I want to help Korea’s soccer. That’s what I have in mind.

I know that Korean players are underestimated in Europe. In my opinion, Korea has many players who can perform wonderfully in the European league.

But, if any of them wants to play in Europe, it is important to select a team suitable for him. Money should not be the standard. Choice of a team based on money may lead to failure when the team is over the player’s ability. We already have a good example. It’s Ahn Jung-Hwan. They will have plenty of chances to play at a renowned team even if they start with a team of relatively less fame as long as they build up their experience step by step.

When I was in the Real Madrid team of Spain, I had a forward Etu from Cameron. He was 17 at that time. Famous teams like Real Madrid strain their players a lot due to the severe intra-team competition. Therefore, a young player like Etu is likely to fail. He did not have many chances to play in games. So I transferred him to a Spain team of lower ranking. After that, Etu performed wonderfully and secured his position in the team. Of course, he participated in every game. Korean players should choose a team where they can improve themselves like in the Etu’s case.

I can’t reveal who I will bring along. I don’t want to compare each player with the others. I respect all of them. A player who is in the K League may become a hero in the next World Cup.

Last year, people misunderstood me when I called the K League of Korea a Walking Game. But I did not intend to insult the K League. I just wanted to describe what I thought of the atmosphere around the stadium, wherein the pressure of fans was absent and many seats were empty. It was an important match.

Professional players should be under heavy pressure every day. That way, players can do their best and improve their performance. The heavier the pressure, the more the players’ speed and spirit improve. I think the small mistakes the Korean players made prior to the World Cup had something with the cold atmosphere toward the Korean soccer games. Once accustomed to loose games, it’s hard to heavily concentrate at important moments.

Frankly, at first I thought Koreans’ zeal for soccer was not so high. I couldn’t understand how family members came together. In Europe, the stadiums are dangerous due of the zealous fans. Therefore, it is rare to bring in children.

During one month in June, I found that I was wrong. Korea has the most beautiful soccer fans in the world. Actually, I thought the world fans should learn from the Korean fans. It’s only possible in Korea for so many people to cheer so enthusiastically without any accident. I hope the Koreans’ enthusiasm would lead to be put into the K league. I believe Korea will kiss the World Cup in the near future since Korea has the most wonderful fans in the world.

Actually I have been disappointed at Korea and its team from time to time. For example, when players made mistakes, like the one in the game against Turkey, which they should not commit, or the press tried to divide the team with absurd articles.

In all cases, I tried to express what I wanted to convey directly. Koreans did the same. Sometimes, even if we argued with each other, we respected each other.

After all of these, Korea became a country that means a lot to me. I have ample experience in coaching European pro teams and national teams. But what I have achieved with Korea means more than any other things in my life. Without the support of Chairman Chung Mong-Joon and Korean people, it would probably have been impossible to advance to the semifinal, which the Korean generations to come would talk about like a fairy tail.

Koreans are warm-hearted people. I love Koreans. I will cherish my memory of Korea forever in my heart. I wish everlasting luck for Korea and its team. So long.

Keuk-In Bae Chi-Young Shin bae2150@donga.com higgledy@donga.com