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Hong Myung-bo`s `fidelity soccer` continues

Posted July. 04, 2014 06:26,   


I once interviewed Hong Myung-bo right after the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea Japan. Remarks made by Hong, the most senior member of the South Korean national soccer team, indicated his antipathy against the team`s then head coach Guus Hiddink. Asked about an argument that the Dutch coach broke the Korean traditional order of seniority, Hong said, "Younger players often called me by my name on the field. However, I taught them to show proper respect to senior players outside the field. This principle of mine did not change neither before or after Hiddink came."

I thought that Hong might be a good player but was not a material for a head coach. Hiddink might have told his players to ignore the traditional seniority system, but his teachings affected them both inside and outside the field. In contrast, Hong might have taught young players nothing but being polite to senior players only outside the field but his teachings affected players even on the field.

Those who have ever played soccer know that only skills and abilities matter on the field. The role played by Park Ji-sung, the national World Cup squad`s youngest player in 2002, should have been played by Son Heung-min this time. But he failed to play that role because the basis of performance-based soccer established by Hiddink was obliterated by Hong`s "fidelity soccer." Hong`s trust in Park Ju-young who had been sitting on the bench showed the coach relied on luck. In addition, Park was the most senior player in the national team whom younger players could not criticize or challenge.

The Korea Football Association has decided to let Hong remain as the national squad`s head coach. He failed to learn anything from Hiddink. Hong did not reject Park Ju-young the way Hiddink did to Lee Dong-gook. Hong failed to identify new promising players the way the Dutch coach found Park Ji-sung and Song Jong-guk. In the win-or-lose soccer games, Hiddink had come-from-behind victory with the bold strategy of reducing defenders and increasing strikers. However, Hong showed no strategy that proved his presence as head coach. More than anything else, he did not know that Algeria was stronger than Russia. We have to watch his "fidelity soccer" until the Asian Cup in January 2015.

Editorial Writer Song Pyeong-in (pisong@donga.com)