Go to contents

Bonfrere`s Team Suffers as Fans Demand His Resignation

Posted August. 09, 2005 03:07,   


What should be done to bring the sinking Korean Football Team back on track?

The Korean Football Team is hurting after losing to its long-time rival Japan and playing disappointed games with other teams at the East Asian Football Championship (EAFC) 2005. Frustrated and infuriated Korean fans rushed to the Internet to rail against Jo Bonfrere, with some extreme opinions urging the Dutch coach to resign.

The problem, however, is that the 2006 World Cup in Germany is just a year away, and it is difficult to change the coach. Even if there is a change in the coaching position, a new coach may spend his time going through trial and error to organize the team in favor of his taste.

Team Play and Roster Issues... When Will the Experiment Be Over?-

Lee Hoi-taek, who chairs the KFA (Korean Football Association) Technical Committee, and Kang Shin-woo, the Associate Technical Advisor, held a long meeting August 8 to discuss possible solutions, but tried to be cautious. Kang said that since it is a delicate and important moment now, any opinion can lead to huge misunderstanding, representing the Technical Advisory Committee`s general opinion

Many soccer experts had their own issues with Bonfrere`s system. Heo Jeong-moo, the head coach of the Jeonnam Dragons and the former head coach of the Korean National Football Team, said, "The team had doubtful team play and has a doubtful player roster. But it is also true that qualified players playing overseas did not join the team, which explains a part of the team`s disappointing performance," he added.

Jeong Hae-sung, the head coach of Bucheon SK, was more skeptical. "The team`s weak points, including its team play, which were repeatedly pointed out since the regional qualification matches for World Cup 2006, did not get any better. The coach seems unaware of the team`s core problems. Bonfrere repeatedly said that he is experimenting with players, but time is up now," he said.

KFA: "Replacing The Coach Will Not Fix The Problem"-

Regarding the replacement issue, however, many experts` approaches are more reserved, saying that there are not many alternatives at hand. It is too late to bring in a new popular foreign head coach, and contract issues will complicate the process. The other logical option is to hire a Korean head coach, but who would be qualified is a difficult issue, too. One KFA staff said that the realistic solution is finding good measures to take, not firing the coach.

Michael Church, a Hong Kong correspondent for British news agency the Press Association (PA) who has covered Asian football for 10 years, said, "Qualified players such as Lee Young-pyo and Park Ji-sung were absent, and inexperienced players took their spots instead. The coach should be applauded for finding two good rookies out of five," suggesting the coach`s achievement in finding new players as the reason for the success of the team in EAFC 2005.

Reviving the Associate Coach System and Increasing Support for Team Considered Crucial-

Doru Nakakoji, a journalist at Asahi Shimbun, said, "There were similar issues in Japan over Zico, the current coach of the Japanese National Team, when he first took responsibility, but those opinions are now almost gone. Firing the coach at this crucial moment is not the right move from a realistic point of view."

What will be alternatives? Most soccer analysts agree on organizing a system in which Bonfrere`s mistakes can be addressed. Accordingly, there are discussions inside the KFA to revive the associate coach system. Other solutions, including upgrading support for the national team, featuring overseas training, and giving the National Team the right to mobilize players for a longer period of time, have been suggested.

Won-Hong Lee bluesky@donga.com