Showing off his strength, Manager Kim Hak-beom has been leading the South Korea national under-23 football team to Olympic finals and to a victory at the AFC U23 Championship. In a press conference on Thursday, the 60-year-old manager said he was happy to be able to contribute to the development of Korean football by nurturing under-23 football players.
Since starting football in his 5th grade, Kim played for Kookmin Bank FC, an amateur club team in South Korea, until late 1991. Despite no experience of playing for the national football team, he could not give up on his football career even after he became a bank clerk after retirement. In 1993, Kim returned to football as a coach for the Kookmin Bank FC. Not being the mainstream, he tried to fill the gap by learning voraciously, which includes earning his doctorate degree at Myongji University.
His passion for learning has been instrumental in winning all the six matches at the AFC U-23 Championship, which would not have been possible without strong pressure, powerful set pieces and successful rotation. “I travelled to Europe and South America every winter to learn their practices,” Kim said. He spoke about strategies with Diego Simeone, manager of Atlético Madrid which boasts a great defensive line, and Mauricio Pochettino, former Tottenham Hotspur manager who taught Son Heung-min. “I used to ask the questions I had regardless of age,” the South Korean manager said. “My job is to understand the current trends and apply them to Korean football.”
“I would like to improve the speed of pass and energy levels of the players, which can overwhelm opponents,” said Kim, who will shortly embark on preparations for the Olympics. He also emphasized the importance of the teamwork between U-23 players and wild card players. “Two years ago when we were preparing for the Asian Games, I asked wild card players (Son Heung-min, Hwang Ui-jo and Jo Hyeon-woo) to pick up balls and carry water bottles for the team,” he said. “I will ask senior players to show their dedication and lead by example, which can help us work as one team.”
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