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Soccer Stars in the Making

Posted December. 23, 2005 03:00,   


Jo Beom-seok (15, Shingal High School), Seol Jae-mun (15, Yongin Taesung High School), and Jo Yeong-cheol (16, Ulsan Hakseong High School) are attending a training program run by France’s FC Metz youth soccer club.

Currently home for the holidays, the youngsters agree that they have learned a lot in Europe, and what they have learned has hardened their determination to make it in the European big leagues someday.

These young athletes have been playing football for Korea’s youth national team since they were 14. Taking part in the study-abroad program offered by Korean Football Association, they have been learning advanced football with FC Metz since August.

Beom-seok, who plays offensive midfield, says, “European players are really serious. In Korea, I often felt like I was playing football against my will. In FC Metz I am learning what it takes to be a pro.”

Seol said, “We would go to practices even when we didn’t feel well. French kids don’t practice when they feel slightly under the weather. They take care of their bodies. But they practice like there’s no tomorrow. Football is like a war to them.”

The three Koreans are playing hard, too. They are currently dominating the French youth league. Yeong-cheol has played in 10 games in the 16 year olds’ league and has scored eight goals and five assists. Beom-seok has played in four games in the 15 year olds’ league and has scored four goals and six assists. Seol has played in six 15 year olds’ league games and four 16 year olds’ league games and scored 14 goals, the most goals scored by a 15 year old.

The three were accompanied to France by Yi Seung-hee, a trainer from the Korean Football Association. “They have had a hard time adapting to French football, but after a while, they’ve become fighters like other European football players.”

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com