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`Soccer is Easier Than a Shooting Drill’

Posted May. 02, 2009 09:35,   



The Dong-A Ilbo visited the stadium of the Korean Military Athletic Unit last week in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province. Energetic salutes spread to beautiful spring skies.

The players are members of the professional women`s soccer team Busan Sangmu (military athletic unit), who still look girlish. They looked as skilled as members of a Marine unit when they chanted in unison “salute” to the unit’s chief Lee Jeong-eun, who visited the site to inspect the team’s exercise,

“At first, I could hardly accept salute let alone give salute,” said Petty

Officer Choi Ji-hye (25). “When junior soldiers saluted me, I looked around because I didn`t know whom they were saluting, and even ran away,” recalling the moment when she joined the unit.

Choi is now a senior member of Sangmu, having served at the unit for more than two years. She now returns salute to junior soldiers, saying “Take care,” as she has grown more comfortable with military greeting.

Members of Busan Sangmu are all petty officers second class. They have been working hard to prepare for the Women’s K-League of soccer, which opened the season April 20.

They underwent five weeks of military training and 11 weeks of special lessons. In addition to soccer, they also prepare for a busy schedule, including mental education and firing drills. Petty Officer Shin Gwi-yeong (26), a founding member of the team, said, “I agonized over joining the unit because I was to become a servicewoman and undergo tough military drills.”

Busan Sangmu, which marks its third anniversary this year, has become a popular team that many women want to play for. The biggest merit of being a Sangmu player is the family-like atmosphere among members. These players study until late at night, sitting on toilets in specialty training. They can even read their teammates’ minds just by looking into the eyes.

Lee Mi-yeon (35), Korea`s first female soccer coach, said, “When I went to meet the players during their military training, I burst into tears after seeing their faces with cracks and darkened fingernails. At that moment, they all became my own beloved children.”

Sangmu players can continue serving in the military after retiring from active duty. They can also take a number of courses, including those on English and computers, offered by the military. Many players prefer Sangmu for its solid job security over other professional teams.

Players say they have many interesting episodes in serving in the military, wherein rank is a priority. Even if players were friends as high school alumni, they hold different ranks depending on when they joined Sangmu.

Members of Gwangju Sangmu, a professional men’s soccer team, salute younger female players because of lower rank. A Busan Sangmu player said, “I recently bumped into Private Second Class Lee Seong-guk (26), but I intentionally avoided looking him in the face because I couldn`t take salute from him. He is older than me and even has a baby.”

Busan Sangmu is in a more upbeat mood as it plays in this year’s league. The team has continued to improve teamwork and recruited talent through the draft. It got off to a good start this season by beating Suwon City Facility Management Corp. 2-1 in its first match.

Petty Officer Choi Seon-jin (21), who scored both goals for Suwon, said, “I had a bruise on my face because the shock from shooting in the game was stronger than I expected during firing drills. I learned playing soccer is easier than firing.”

Coach Lee said, “Gwangju Sangmu’s stellar performance in the K-League is a big burden for us, but also a good stimulus for our team. We will show many goal ceremonies of saluting the unit’s chief.”