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Will Hong Be Olympic Team’s New Captain?

Posted July. 31, 2007 03:02,   


“Should we turn to Hong Myung-bo?” “No, he’s still young.”

The Korean national soccer team, which came in third in the 2007 Asian Cup, returned home on July 30. Throughout the day, Korea Football Association (KFA) leaders put their heads together and discussed the issue of naming a successor for Coach Pim Verbeek, who notified the association of his resignation. This is because the head of the Olympic team must be appointed as soon as possible with the 2008 Beijing Olympics final preliminaries beginning on August 22. A decision regarding the national team coach can be put off for the time being, however, as the team does not have any matches scheduled until next February.

KFA officials, including vice president Kim Jae-han, managing director Kim Ho-gon, head of the planning office Kim Jin-guk and head of the technical committee Lee Yeong-moo carefully considered the issue of putting Hong Myung-bo, 38, in charge of the Olympic team. At the moment, managing director Kim Ho-gon, who successfully led the team to the top-eight at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and Busan I Park coach Park Seong-hwa, who heads the national youth team and trained the current Olympic squad players, are the most practical solutions. However, circumstances make it difficult to call either of them to the Olympic team as Kim is currently in charge of the association’s administration, and as it has been less than a month since Park started as Busan I Park’s coach. That is why Hong, who joined the coaching staff ever since the German World Cup, has been raised as a suggestion.

Among KFA leaders, the opinion that, “More important than his name-value or popularity among fans, Hong is the only candidate we have that is capable of plowing through difficulties. He has coached the players since the German World Cup and has charisma, so the players are likely to follow his guidance,” is gaining more strength than the argument that, “It is a problem that he is still young and does not have much coaching experience.” Verbeek also lent support to the setup of being succeeded by Hong as he said, “Great staffers such as Hong Myung-bo, Afshin Ghotbi and Cossa will remain, and they will be able to lead the Olympic team well.”

However, KBS sports commentator Lee Yong-soo said, “Time-wise, Hong can coach the Olympic team, but the concern is that it may be too heavy a burden for him. Naming Hong as coach will likely hush critical public sentiment toward the national team, but on the other hand, it could end up leaving an unprepared Hong bruised.” KFA will hold a technical committee meeting on July 31 and is expected to make a final decision regarding the matter of Hong Myung-bo leading the team at that time.

Meanwhile on July 30, Verbeek received a phone call from KFA president Chung Mong-joon, who is currently in Indonesia, asking him to “continue as the national team coach.” But Verbeek declined, saying, “I’ve already made my decision.”