It was a long time ago. I was having dinner with a senior official from a K League club. The official, who had nothing to do with soccer but joined the organization for political reasons, expressed his frustration with his team’s coach’s selection of players.
He said, “We have three national players on the team and they don’t get to play. At first, I didn’t understand what he was talking about, but then I realized that he was referring to the age-group national team and that the coach was wrong for not playing players who were talented enough to be selected for the age-group national team anyway.
It was a ridiculous statement. Of course, if you’re good enough to make the national team, you’re promising. But the pros are the present, not the future. It’s a team that needs to perform right away, and a player who is good at playing should be playing, not someone who is young and promising. In that position, there was actually a good older player who was coveted by other K League teams. The idea that you should play because you’re young or because you’re an age-group representative is something that only people who have nothing to do with soccer can come up with, and anyone who understands soccer and knows the league can see right away that there’s a nuance to it.
Why do I bring up Jürgen Klinsmann in the headline and talk about something completely unrelated? It’s because Klinsmann’s comments at the press conference on the 13th reminded me of the past.
During the press conference, Klinsmann said, “At the last U-20 World Cup, South Korea did very well, reaching the quarterfinals, and I don’t know where many of those players are playing, if they’re playing in the K League. There are some players who have gone to the big stage, such as Kim Ji-su (Brentford), Bae Joon-ho (Stoke City), and Lee Han-beom (Mitwillan), but these young players should definitely get playing time in the K League. Personally, I think it’s difficult for young players to get a chance in the K League.”
He used Lee Kang-in’s case as an example. “I want to ask you, if 18-year-old Lee Kang-in had played in the K League, would he have been able to play, how much time would he have gotten? In Spain, he was able to play and develop from a young age. Look at Dortmund. Elling Holland and Jude Bellingham started at that age and became world-class players. In Korea, I don’t think young players get many opportunities. We did well at the U-20 World Cup, but these young players are not getting a chance in the K League.”
I can sympathize with Klinsmann’s point and even understand it. However, it is uncomfortable to speak as if you are an expert on the K League when there are many people in Korea who don’t watch the K League and look down on it. Moreover, I can’t help but be surprised that the head coach of the A national team, the pinnacle of Korean soccer, is saying something similar to what I’ve heard before from high-ranking officials who have nothing to do with soccer.
The K League treats its young players well, with the U-22 rule, which is unique in the world, virtually forcing players under the age of 22 to play. And starting in 2022, players as young as 16 will be able to play in the K League. 토토사이트