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Lower Height Is No Longer Disadvantage in Soccer

Posted August. 14, 2009 23:06,   


“Soccer is not about height. A lower height is better for penetration through small spaces.”

Striker Choi Sung-kuk, who plays for the K-League`s Gwangju Sangmu, leads his team’s front attack.

The 26-year old is just 172 centimeters tall but swiftly penetrates an opponent’s defense with his speed and skills. His stellar performance has resulted in Gwangju winning nine games this season. The team had finished in the league cellar last season.

Choi said, “Many fans might root for me because I`m short. I`ve been lucky to become a soccer player.”

○ Smaller players shine

Shorter players have stood out in world soccer. The Spanish national team especially has many players of lower height, as does South American powerhouse Argentina.

FC Barcelona, which achieved a treble by winning the Spanish league and cup titles and the Champions League crown, ranks among the lowest in player height average.

For Korea, the average height of the national team was 181.3 centimeters in the 1998 World Cup in France. Eleven years later, the squad has the same average.

In ball sports, height is generally considered essential so how soccer remains an exception to this is a mystery. Shin Dong-seong, director of the Sports Research Institute, said, “Tall players are slower in turning than shorter ones,” adding, “Smaller players can be competitive in soccer, a sport in which instant turns and lateral movement are important.”

Moon Yeong-jin at the Korea Institute of Sports Science said, “Impact is more important than energy in soccer, in which players handle a moving ball.”

“A player whose center of gravity is lower can set the timing of his shot with a bigger impact,” he said, adding a smaller player has the advantage in agility used for shooting and flexibility.

○ No disadvantage from lower height

Being short is unlikely to prove a disadvantage for players. Kim Dong-ki, a technical analyst at the Korea Football Association, said, “The advantage stemming from height is disappearing in modern soccer, in which quick passing and momentous speed are considered important elements.”

“A tall striker serving as target was considered a prerequisite for a successful team in the past, but such a player is now an option.”

Kim Byeong-joon, a sports psychology professor at Inha University, has a similar analysis. Short players can be more versatile in modern soccer as long as they can develop a balanced physical structure through scientific weight training, he said.

“Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona began to devote himself to soccer at age 11, when he learned that he had a growth hormone problem,” he said, suggesting a lower height could be a motivating factor for a player.