Go to contents

Soccer Players Determined to Win Gold

Posted July. 18, 2008 08:07,   


The Olympic Games opens in four years. A series of feature stories are being put out.

They also participate in the Olympics. But, no one has paid any interest in their efforts. Nevertheless, they play hard. Amid heat, they kick the ball from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day. The ball with which they play is filled with metal beads. Even though they cannot see, their feet seem to have eyes. They are players of Korea’s visually-impaired soccer team which will participate in soccer games of the 2008 Beijing Special Olympic Games, which will open Sept. 6.

“Until recently, I could recognize which sound came from which player. Recently, however, I’m a bit confused. That means all players’ performances have improved.”

Lee Ok-hyeong, 42, who coaches the national squad, cannot see. He lost his eyesight in an accident. The Special Olympic Games have some events for the visually challenged. However, it is the first time that a coach without sight leads a national squad.

“I know that some in the Korea Football Federation for the Disabled were opposed to the idea that a blind coach leads the national squad. However, I persuaded them into believing that a coach who had played on the field can teach better.”

A soccer match for the visually impaired is held in an exclusive field, equivalent to one-fifth of a general soccer ground. Also, a team consists of five players.

A goalkeeper is up to a player with sight, and other handicapped players wear eye bandages and head guards made of sponge. Korea has secured a passage in the 2007 Asian Cup held in Incheon in October 2007. Korea, Brazil, Spain, the United Kingdom, China and Argentina secured the passage to the final game. The Korea Sports Association for the Disabled said, “It is great for the Korean team to be included among the final six national squads since Korea has a lack of qualified players and resources.”

Players receive an allowance of 30,000 won every day. Given most of them are qualified massagers, the amount is only half of their general income level.

The coach and players dream of achieving a great performance. They are determined to win Korea’s first gold medal in their area. Kim Jeong-hoon, 32, of the soccer team said, “We desperately want people’s interest.”

In this year’s Special Olympic Games, 79 Korean players will participate in 13 events. Korea hopes that it will get 13 gold medals, six silver medals and seven bronze medals, to rank on the 14th place. If the nation’s soccer team gets a medal, the nation’s ranking would further improve.