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“No Favoritism on Team Korea,” Says Coach Huh

Posted May. 29, 2008 08:59,   


“I had dreamed of becoming a member of the national team, not a pro soccer player. That was the only dream I had. Whenever I represent my country, I feel the dream rising up in my mind. The pride of being a national team member is all I cherish and sustain myself with,” said Park Ji-sung.

Team Korea has convened once again. For the May 31 match against Jordan and the regional qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, 25 players and coaches got together at Hotel Mayfield in Seoul on Wednesday. They were exuding pride.

Six players who were recruited by overseas pro teams, and 19 “domestic” players constitute the team. Among them were Choi Hyo-jin, his first time representing Korea, and Ahn Jung-hwan, who rejoined the team after 21 months. Choi looked a little nervous, while Ahn felt as comfortable as ever.

It’s not appropriate, Coach Huh stressed, to distinguish “domestic players” from “overseas players.” But the chasm seemed a real one for sure. The Korea Football Association intended to have one player from foreign leagues and two players from domestic teams sit together per table before reporters at the press conference. With the exception of Ahn and Park Ju-yeong, no one from the Korean league agreed to the plan. They seemed mindful of the possibility that the press corps would shower “overseas” players with questions.

But the differences don’t mean much on the field where each player has to both vie with other players for a lineup spot and coordinate well with the rest of the team to win.

That was what Coach Huh emphasized, saying, “I don’t see any difference between players in the K-league and those in overseas leagues. I will decide on performance only. If Park [Ji-sung] is not in good condition, he will not play in any game.”

Players seemed to share the same thought. Park Ji-sung, who drew the most questions and attention from media crews, said, “No team starts a game with a fixed lineup. Any player can earn a spot when he demonstrates himself through training and practice games.”

Park Ju-yeong added, “Each attacker has his own style, and his unique style may fit into some games, but not into others.”

The team will remain convened for the next 25 days. After the conference, they will move to the training center in Paju City.

yjongk@donga.com kimsk@donga.com