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Asian Games Disappointing for Korea

Posted December. 14, 2006 07:22,   


At the 2006 Doha Asian Games, Korea suffered bitter defeats in the three major pro sports most beloved in Korea: soccer, baseball and basketball.

To put it shortly, it is the “Doha tragedy.”

Team Korea’s baseball squad, which had aimed for its third gold medal in a row, played terribly. They not only lost to Taiwan, but also to the Japanese team composed of amateur players, and finally got nothing but a bronze medal to console themselves.

Having replaced many of its members with fresh youngsters, the basketball team was also ambitious to continue the golden glory they had tasted four years ago in Busan. However, they were disqualified in the quarterfinals, which made them end up with no medals for the first time in 48 years since the 1958 Tokyo Games. The women’s basketball team, whose initial goal was silver, adjusted it down to bronze.

It was pretty much similar for the soccer team (51st in the FIFA rankings) that had endeavored to win their first Asian Games gold in 20 years. Although they were on an updraft after beating North Korea 3-0 on the 10th, they lost to Iraq (88th), which was a cut below them in objective terms. As a result, the team has been forced to the bronze medal match.

Some fans go so far as to criticize that “We shouldn’t have expected something better from these rich athletes.” They point out that although these pros are receiving enormous salaries and stardom, when it comes to an event of national pride, instead of personal profits, they don’t exert themselves enough for their responsibilities.

Some baseball players who had been chosen to the national team disappointed many fans by refusing to join, making lame excuses. The football team was also poorly organized. Blind-sighted with the “military service immunity,” which is awarded to gold medal winners in the Asian Games, players were selected based on their “status of military service fulfillment” rather than their competence. Choi Boo-young, coach of men’s basketball team rebuked his players saying, “They shrink from danger. They’re too selfish. They’re anything but pro.”

To some extent, this “moral hazard” of professional players has been predicted. As the competition between teams grew intense, bubbles on the players’ salaries inflated. They began receiving far more than what they should in terms of the market’s scale or their own capabilities. Players who had just graduated high schools easily earn hundreds of million won as soon as they join pro clubs.

In sum, Team Korea’s disastrous performance in Doha is a natural result of premature vanity, inefficient member selection based on their status of military service fulfillment, and a too hasty attempt for a generational change.