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Taegeuk Warriors Ready to Play in Europe

Posted July. 31, 2002 22:15,   


European pro leagues are the home of the world’s favorite sport football. They are also the land of dream for players across the world, where fame and money abound. This is why Korean Taegeuk warriors, who made the history in the 2002 World Cup advancing to the final four, are eager to join European teams.

Lee Eul-yong and Cha Doo-ri have agreed respectively to play for Turkey’s first league club Trabzon Sport and German Bundesliga’s second league team Dusbruk. The news is encouraging although the teams are not equal to Italian Serie A, English Premier League and Spanish Premera Liga, the three major European leagues.

And Yoo Sang-chul, Song Jong-guk and Kim Nam-il are expected to follow their suit. Then how many Korean players have played in Europe so far and who are they?

Cha Bum-guen was the first Korean player ever to ascend onto the European stage. Cha joined Bundesliga’s second league team Darmshutat in 1978 at the age of 25 only to move on to the first league’s Frankfurt the following year. After playing for the renowned German club through 1983, he moved to another giant Leverkusen where he stayed until 1989.

During his years in Bundesliga, Cha made 307 appearances and scored 98 goals, earning a nickname ‘Brown Bomber.’ Bundesliga was the world’s best league at that time following West Germany’s winning the World Cup in 1974, although now it stands behind Italian and Spanish leagues. In this respect, Cha’s success in Germany is recognized as a great feat, especially given that he joined the European league relatively late after serving military duty.

His equal peer was Huh Jung-moo. The former national team coach joined the Dutch first league club PSV Eindhoven at 25 after his military service. For three years, he played for the top-level club, notching 15 goals in 77 matches.

The Dutch league at that time was also in its prime years, inventing the modern ‘total soccer’ of all offense and all defense. The league was emulating with German Bundesliga, having Johan Cruief, one of the world’s greatest soccer stars, on its side.

Huh became a valuable asset to the club, which is now led by coach Guus Hiddink, being both a playmaker and a forwarder at the same time.

Since Cha and Huh, however, Korean players failed to distinguish themselves in Europe. Although Kim Jin-guk, Park Sang-in, Park Jong-won, Hwang Sun-hong and Kim Ju-sung were picked by Bundesliga teams, most of them were left on the bench, except Kim Joo-sung who scored 5 goals in 23 second-league appearances playing for Bochum for two year.

Suh Jung-won joined French Strassbourg in 1998 where he stayed for a year scoring 5 goals in 14 matches, while Noh Jung-yoon played for Dutch NACBREDA scoring one goal in his 25 appearances. Later, Lee Sang-yoon and Jung Jae-kwon joined French Lorient and Portuguese Vitoria Setubal, but their stays were short-lived.

More recently Ahn Jung-hwan scored 5 goals in 30 matches playing two seasons for Italian Perugia since 2000. After a successful season in Belgian Antwerp, Sul Gi-hyon moved to Anderlecht, where he has notched 13 goals in 42 matches through three seasons.