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Has Korean Soccer Found Its Next Big Hope?

Posted November. 01, 2010 08:20,   


A boy ran and ran. He underwent highly repetitive exercises to learn basic skills.

When he continued practicing short passes alone for more than an hour, he would envy his peers, who were playing for fun on the field.

When he continued to practice shots from the same spot more than 100 times, he would sigh. He then asked himself, “Can I become successful simply by repeating this kind of exercise?”

He could not afford to lose his drive, however. When he showed signs of an easygoing motion, his father instantly criticized him. The boy had to mobilize his own spirit to try every single shot.

The boy continued drills this way for eight years from first grade. He seemed to be repeating simple motions when seen from a small perspective, but was training in a larger framework ranging from basic skills to tactics as systematically drilled into him by his father.

His father, former soccer player Son Woong-jung, would say, “Good soccer skills come from stable basic skills,” adding, “Now is the time to build up basic skills and learn how to enjoy soccer.”

For this reason, the boy completed his own way of play under his father`s mentorship, while his peers were obsessed with securing a championship.

When the boy entered Yukmingwan Middle School in Wonju, Gangwon Province, at age 15, he instantly stood out. Na Seong-hwa, then coach of the middle school team, said, “He showed inherent outstanding flexibility, speed and solid basic skills, and a brain that enabled him to understand soccer.”

Afterwards, the boy showed impressive performances at the 2008 U-16 Asian Championship by scoring four goals and last year`s U-17 World Cup with three goals. He then joined Hamburg SV of the German Bundesliga.

He drew keen attention from the coach with his explosive scoring capacity by putting in nine goals in nine preseason games this year. He then made his big splash at long last.

He started a regular-season game against Cologne Saturday afternoon, played the whole game, and netted his first league goal in the 24th minute.

His team lost, 3-2, but German media heaped compliments on him, with one saying, “Fantastic goal and highly impressive debut match."

The player considers as his role model Cha Bum-kun, a Korean who starred in the German league decades ago. He said, “I`m very proud to be dreaming a big dream on the same stage as Mr. Cha did.”

Son Heung-min, 18, perhaps Korea`s next soccer star, could alleviate fears of a striker shortage in the country.