Starting Lineup! + 90 Minutes Till Kickoff: It’s Patriotic, I Guess

Hwang Hee-Chan/KFA

This is more important than my rambling below – this just in:

3-4-3 Starting Lineup

Son Heungmin – Hwang Heechan – Lee Keunho

Kim Minwoo – Jung Wooyoung – Kwon Changhoon – Ko Yohan

Kim Minjae – Jang Hyunsoo – Kim Younggwon

Kim Seunggyu

Koo Jacheol is dropped.

So, I was supposed to do the preview last night. But because of some technical issue that made the website crash when I hit publish at 11pm, it never got uploaded. I have just noticed that Roy has offered this . Go read that before my last few cents before a game that will determine the future of Korean football.

I confess, I’ve been neglecting this national team. I had 2 posts in drafts  that I wanted to publish over Labor Day weekend out of blind fury and frustration, but I never got around to posting it. Let’s share a couple excerpts, then:

From a post that I had titled “Kim Younggwon in Hot Water”

Kim’s words are terribly unbecoming of a captain. The Korean Football Association fought tooth and nail to get 60,000+ spectators to fill up the stadium to cheer this team on. It was the golden opportunity to have the nation fall back in love with a national team that has gotten a bad rap ever since the failure in 2014. And all he can do is blame the crowd noise?

I’m sure it was frustrating for him, and I’m sure the noise made things difficult. But any athlete, any professional athlete, would pride themselves to see so many show up to get behind their team in a rousing show of unity. They should feed off of that energy. Kim’s words, though, probably tell us more about the KNT than we think: they would rather play in silent quietude without the burden of a nation on their shoulders than feel proud to wear the national team crest and jersey on their shoulders.

A little harsh, no? For those of you who missed it, stand-in captain Kim Younggwon said this post-game:

The crowd was very noisy, we couldn’t communicate the way we wanted to because of the noise from the stands.

Which, understandably, pissed off a lot of fans. It was the number one query on Naver for several hours post-match and the morning after. Kim reportedly went into a mini-depression mode after realizing his mistake, which is probably why I didn’t publish that. It was a bad PR mistake by a new captain who, though having made a thoroughly incompetent statement, didn’t seem to come from a bad place. And after that Sebastian Soria incident, we didn’t need another bad PR mistake.

This from a post I had titled “Let Syria Go In Our Place”

Look at the Syrian national team. A side who from embers has risen like a phoenix. Setting up an organized, defensive structure that these over-paid, pompous, self-righteous Korean footballers could never endeavour to line up in. That side chases a crazy dream because it embodies the strength of football – hope and joy. Their country is in ruins, and yet, with a unifying power that nothing else on this planet has, war might just even stop for this game. This crazy 90 minute kickaround that could send a painfully divided and torn apart people into euphoria and delirium. That could propel a message of hope, peace and unity at a time when fraternal conflict has annihilated those very concepts.

The Syrian national team, to use an old football cliché, “wants it more”. Most of all, they need it more. So I am, tongue-in-cheek, calling on the AFC to just give Syria the 2nd place ticket in Brazil. Neither Korea nor Uzbekistan deserve it. Not on form, not on skill, and most definitely not on heart and spirit.

Again, harsh, irrational, exaggerated, coated with several layers of silly, bitter angst, but you see the point I’m trying to get across.

And so, though I quite angrily, adamantly decided to ignore this national team and not devote any more of my life to it after taking no shots in a game that we should have at least tried to win or looked like we wanted to win, this morning I woke up with a certain sense of guilt.

This team is like, my life. This World Cup is like, my everything.

I am someone who, though often trying to resist and reject its tempting lure, am dragged against my will back to this sport – and to this team – with whom I have a probably unhealthy masochistic love.

So yeah. I’d rather fall ass-backwards into a World Cup than miss out entirely. It’s selfish, it’s for my own sake, sure, but I truly believe the future of Korean football hinges on it. Missing out means no revenue for KBS, MBC or SBS off of the World Cup. It means a generation of footballers not seeing their stars on the international stage. No young boys and girls kicking around a tiny plushy soccer ball pretending they’re Son Heung-min or Ki Sung-yueng. No money for the KFA, who, in turn, will slash funding everywhere it “doesn’t matter” – youth soccer, women’s soccer, the grassroots and development, because they have proven too obtuse to recognize the fundamental issues in the Korean game which most knowledgeable readers, fans and writers have already easily discerned.

Missing out is unacceptable. We qualify for the World Cup. That’s what we do. We’ve been doing it for years. We have to again.

So even if my time will be spent suffering through an exam on anthropology and going on a lunch-date I hesitantly accepted (neither, I expect, will go very well), I will, almost innately, wonder about how the team is doing, and pray to whatever deity that we do make it to Russia tonight.

This team doesn’t deserve a lot of things, but my support for it is irrevocable. My playlist this morning was Arirang, Oh Pilsung Korea and maybe even a few stanzas of the Aegukka. Following, and writing, about this team has been my homage to the nation in which I was born, and yet do not really know. My Labour Day weekend attempt at indifference has failed. It’s patriotism, I guess.

So, for hopefully what will not be the last time on the Tavern:

Daehanminguk Fighting!

PS.

My guess at a starting lineup:

Kim Seunggyu – Kim Jinsu, Kim Juyoung, Kim Younggwon, Jang Hyunsoo; Koo Jacheol, Jung Wooyoung; Son Heungmin, Kwon Changhoon, Lee Jaesung; Hwang Heechan. Keep it simple stupid – we are playing against the perennial chokers of the AFC. A reputation, I hope, will continue after tonight’s clash in Tashkent.

PPS.

Ki Sungyueng, Choi Chulsoon and Nam Taehee are the three excluded from the 23 man squad. Ki is injured, Choi is suspended, and Nam doesn’t seem to be in Shin’s plans at all.

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The maple syrup guzzling kimchijjigae craving Korean-Canadian, eh?