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Soccer Player-Turned-Banker Returns to the Game

Posted January. 18, 2008 07:31,   


Kim Jae-han looks sharp when he turns the pages wearing his reading glasses. Is it because he worked in finance for more than 16 years? First impressions of the 6-feet 3-inch tall Kim are more like that of a kind next-door neighbor. But when he works, he looks meticulous.

In the 1970s, Kim was a famous soccer player among children. The 61-year-old man quit playing soccer and turned into a financier for 16 years. Then on Jan. 30 last year, he began a new life as a soccer administrator. This reporter sat down with the vice president of the Korea Football Association at a “soccer day” event this Thursday.

○ Playing Soccer Again

“At first, I had a hard time adapting to soccer, because the game has changed a lot. Banks run by themselves once a system is set up, but soccer involves relationships, creating unpredictable situations,” said Kim.

He was embarrassed when he failed to recognize an acquaintance whom he knew as a soccer player. He did not know how to handle the piles of work related to the national soccer team stacking up on his desk. In particular, there were many incidents including the national team’s drinking scandal, and the nomination of Heo Jeong-moo as a national team coach after failing to find a foreign candidate last year.

“Without Jin-gook and Ho-gon, I would have failed to adapt here and run away,” said Kim.

He said that his former fellow soccer mates Kim Jin-gook (57), the planning director, and Kim Ho-gon (57), the managing director, helped him immensely.

“To be honest, it was much harder for me to get accustomed to the association than to be scolded for a bad play as a player. At least now, I don’t get completely shocked,” said Kim.

○ We Had a Stronger Spirit.”

“When I was a soccer player, things like uniforms and shoes were poor but we had a very strong national pride,” said Kim. “Once a player was on the national team, he played very hard. At least, players in the past had more of a fighting spirit than today. But players with the current national team are far better in adapting to technology and tactics,” said Kim.

In the 1970s, when players such as Kim Ho, Kim Jeong-nam, Lee Hoi-taek, Park Yi-cheon, Kim Jin-gook, Cha Beom-geun and Kim Jae-han played in Seoul Stadium, as many as 25,000 people came to see the match. Even though it was far smaller number than the current 50,000-60,000, fans were more enthusiastic then. Plays involving Cha Beom-geun, Kim Jin-gook, Kim Jae-han, and Kim Jae-han and Park Yi-cheon drew enormous attention.

“Today’s players enjoy an imbalance of fame and wealth,” noted Kim. “Many seem to fail because they do not know how to manage them. That is because they did not learn basic human values, to think seriously about their lives, and to discipline themselves.”

The vice president is now interested in creating a “study league” system whereby players can continue to study and play from elementary school up to college, consistently.

○ Soccer Players are One

“Soccer players need to unite,” said Kim. “It’s good to criticize soccer, but singling-out a group to achieve a certain goal is only divisive,” said Kim.

When he was asked about the fact that KFA President Chung Mong-joon, who took the helm in 1993 and worked for the body for 16 years, retires this year, Kim said, “President Chung is a great asset to soccer. Even after he steps down, we should unite and give him a round of applause for him to retire honorably and to play a bigger role in the development of soccer.”