By no means is this a certain transfer waiting to happen, but twitter twitched with a purported link between QPR’s Park Ji-Sung and Toronto’s MLS team:
Ji Sung Park, the latests to be linked with #MLS – Obvious rumor flying around is Toronto FC due to Nelsen.
— Callum Williams (@CalWilliamsSKC) February 28, 2013
I was tempted to dismiss this, but there might be something to this. First: Park’s QPR teammate Nelson Ryan joined with Toronto FC last month to become their head coach, a rather unorthodox way to hang up one’s boots officially. Second: his friend and ex-Taeguk Warrior teammate Lee Young-Pyo has been talking on the phone recently. While “99.9% certain” that he will retire at the end of the season, Lee was coy with a Canadian reporter on whether the subject of conversation with Park revolved around trying to convince his friend to cross the pond to join the MLS and play to appreciative soccer fans in Canada and the US. Third: his days at QPR is unquestionably numbered. There’s no doubt he’s fallen out of favor with Harry Rednapp -he wasn’t even featured in last weekend’s 2-0 loss to Manchester United. In fact, his fallen stature at the club is is such that he made an appearance – in a QPR reserve match (Tuesday’s game was a losing 2-1 affair to Watford). Park couldn’t have imagined in a span of a year he’d be playing from the perch of the Premiership in Manchester to a team dead last in the table. If his goal was increased playing time, his fortunes have fallen with Mark Hughes dismissal and Rednapp’s appointment. However, the change of managers have not improved the club’s lot in the table; it looks increasingly difficult to imagine the Rangers will be able to execute a Houdini escape from relegation. With the MLS season about to get underway on Saturday, by the time the last nail on QPR’s coffin is hammered in May, Ji-Sung might be ready to sail into the western sunset.
Moving on…from time to time, the Tavern has been graced by the presence of outside contributors. CJay has given some inside perspective with Kim Bo-Kyung’s performances at Cardiff, Santiago Perez of rainmaker18.com has offered up close commentary on Park Chu-Young’s time at Celta Vigo, Chris Ayres and Lex Nande at K-Talk has given the skinny on Asian Champions League and K-League developments. We want to give a belated warm welcome to Jinseok Yang, the Tavern’s newest contributor, who on Wednesday posted a neat profile on Paik Seung-Ho, the first of three Korean youth players training at Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy. As he mentioned, their time at Barcelona’s academy may be in jeopardy; FIFA ruled that the Koreans and two other academy youths are ineligible to play for them under an obscure transfer rule that is inconsistently enforced. Barcelona is appealing the ruling. If they are successful in the appeal, who knows, we may one day get to see these players move on to play for some of the top teams in Europe -or perhaps become the first Korean(s) to play for Barcelona FC’s first squad. Check out his excellent profile on Paik here. Jinseok will be back soon for profiles on the other Korean youths at Barca.
Did we mention the MLS starts their season tomorrow? The K-League Classic is also kicking off things officially on Saturday, with this season representing 30 consecutive years that professional football has been surviving on the peninsula. While the Tavern isn’t exactly thrilled that the K-League has changed their name to K-League Classic (think Coke Classic and the marketing disaster that it was), it’s a done deal -at least for now. If anything, we’re not happy about having to type out several character strokes further than last season. Hence, our experimenting with the abbreviation of KLC -at least for the duration of this post. The change in name is now necessary as the K-League is now the official name of the newly formed 2nd division, attached below the KLC’s 1st division status. That relegation has officially come to life in Korea is quite an exciting development; now all the drama and excitement and gnashing of teeth associated with promotion and relegation can play out henceforth. Still, there are some perpetual problems the KLC struggles with, notably lack of bums in the seats (bums as in rear ends, as opposed to homeless folks -though the KLC at this point would love to have either fill the stands). The SKS blog posted some sobering observations on the problems of the KLC this week. Koreans, unlike the average American, loves football -as an over-generality. The 2002 World Cup has left an indelible mark with several generations of Korean sports fans – so much love exists for the Korean national team obviously. But when it comes to professional club football, unfortunately that love has been largely reserved for the European variety. Fans of European based Korean footballers who thumb their nose at the K-League conveniently ignore the fact that Ki Sung-Yeung, Lee Chung-Yong, Koo Ja-Cheol, Ji Dong-Won, and Park Chu-Young were all scouted and transferred straight from K-League clubs. It goes without saying that these notable Korean footballers might not have had a chance to be recruited to play in Europe without the K-League giving them that critical initial playing time and exposure to pro football. So the big questions hanging over the league: can the KLC build up it’s fanbase, raise it’s TV presence (both domestically and internationally) and rapidly increase a larger network audience – all of which is critical to the league’s financial health and stability?
PROTEST ESPN FC…
We mentioned in an earlier post about media organizations like ESPN FC that posts J-League and A-League upcoming fixtures, but not KLC fixtures. We’d like to start an internet campaign to reverse that. As it’s 2AM at the Tavern, I’m going to roll this out in a quieter fashion than I entailed. Still, if you are interested, I’m trying to organize as many people as possible to phone / email, and later in a more coordinated fashion, to twitterbomb ESPN FC, demanding (politely) that they include K-League (rather KLC) coverage on their site.
To phone your protest in, (taken from ESPN FC’s site): “call customer care 1-888-549-3776 and we are available from 8am to 1am EST every day. —Please understand that we can respond to phone and email inquiries in English or Spanish only.”
It’s not exactly emailing them, but you can submit an ‘electronic message’ to ESPN FC. Mosey on over to https://r.espn.go.com/members/contact/index. Here’s a screen snapshot of what you’ll find when you get there (take note of the draw down tabs. Category: choose General Website. Item: choose ESPN FC/EURO 2012. Topic: choose Content).
You can elect to use the following as a template, or write your own rationale about why including K-League Classic fixtures & news would be useful to have in their site. Here’s what I submitted to them:
“ESPN FC has J-League and A-League fixtures listed, but doesn’t include Korea’s K-League Classic fixtures. That ESPN FC could miss out on covering the K-League Classic is surprising, given the strength of these Korean teams in Asia. Some prominent football players in Europe like Ki Sung-Yeung (Swansea City FC) first started playing in this league before transferring to Europe. The Asian Footballer of the Year award was split between Japanese international Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United) and Korean midfielder Lee Keun-Ho, the latter played for Ulsan Hyundai -a team that won the Asian Champions League title last season. In fact, K-League teams have won 3 out of the last 4 Asian Champions League titles, beating out J-League and A-League teams consistently in the grueling tournaments. For ESPNFC to miss out on covering the K-League Classic, that would be quite a glaring omission, not to mention missing out on some of the most interesting story lines from the continent.”
We’ll hold off the twitterbombing, unless our demands are not met –(wait, did I just sound like some radical internet gangster?) Like I said, I’m rolling this out slowly, more updates/reminders in future posts – unlikely they’ll respond immediately. K-Talk and several other bloggers have agreed in principal to the idea of organizing an internet protest; if enough people contact them, maybe….just maybe…ESPN FC will listen and get the ball rolling. Hey, when can the oldest and most established professional football leagues in Asia get some respect around here?
Speaking of increased visibility for the KLC, some games are going to be broadcast in the United States. One World Sports has the broadcasting rights and will be (usually) presenting two KLC matches each weekend. At the present moment, Dish Network is the only US national carrier of the network (though they are trying to be included with other national cable providers). Good enough for me to ditch Comcast. For the opening day match, One World Sports will be showcasing on Saturday night, live from South Korea, Seongnam vs. Suwon at midnight EST.
Did we mention earlier the Korean national football team? FIFA edited and published yesterday a retrospective video of the 2002 World Cup featuring that year’s edition of the Taeguk Warriors. It’s entitled, ‘A Phenomenon Unlike Any Other.’ For a sentimental trip back to the madness, the yelling, the jumping up and down, and extra time golden goals of that summer of 2002, click here (FIFA has disabled embedding the video, so a link will have to suffice).
We’re all about mentioning’s here today at the Tavern, and we got one more: K-Talk had the lowdown on the midweek Asian Champions League Results. In a nutshell, 3 draws (Jeonbuk, Suwon, and Pohang) and only Seoul FC emerges with a win, a walloping 5-1 decision over China’s Jiansu Sainty. K-Talk’s Lex Nande made the long trip to Thailand along with some Jeonbuk supporters to get a firsthand look at their 2-2 draw with Muangthong United.
Weekend is officially here. Tavern is now open for some games to watch:
SATURDAY GAMES in Europe and North America (all times in US Eastern Standard Time).
Germany, Augsburg vs. Werder Bremen 9:30 am. Ji Dong-Won scored his first goal in the Bundesliga, but was injured late in the 2nd half of their 2-1 victory against Hoffenheim last week. Has he recovered in time for this match? If not, Koo Ja-Cheol will still be on hand to represent the Taeguk Warriors for Augsburg.
Germany, Hamburg vs. Greuther Furth 9:30 am. Son Heung-Min seems destined to score more goals for Hamburg, but will it come against Park Jung-Bin’s new team?
England, Barnsley vs. Bolton 10 am. Lee Chung-Yong says he’s back to 100% since his massive injury more than a year ago. The Wanderers have risen to 10th in the English Championship table. Can they actually stretch and battle their way to a promotion chance?
England, Middlesbrough vs. Cardiff City 10 am. Kim Bo-Kyung has so much competition in the midfield at Cardiff, he gets benched following good performances. Cardiff back to leading the English Championship with an 8 point lead. Meanwhile, their Malaysian owner made incendiary statements about rebranding the Bluebirds as ‘the Dragons’, presumably for Asian marketing reasons. The backlash over the proposed change at the 104 year old club by fans gave Vincent Tan a bout of coldfeet, and he quickly retracted the ‘suggestions’.
England, Swansea City vs. Newcastle 10 a.m. foxsoccer2go.com (tape at 3 on Fox Soccer Plus). Ki Sung-Yeung won the Korean Player of the Year in 2012 and last weekend won the League Cup with Swansea. Will he reprise his surprise role as centerback for the Swans?
England, Southampton vs. QPR 10 a.m. foxsoccer2go.com (tape at 5 on Fox Soccer Plus). For Park Ji-Sung and Yun Suk-Young, it’s looking like they are on the ‘ship of the damned.’ Maybe the Rangers can squeeze 3 points from Southampton. If not, it is surely the end.
MLS, Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC 6:30 p.m. MLS Direct Kick, MLS Live. Curtain call for Lee Young-Pyo. Will he win the MLS Cup in his last year in pro football?
Switzerland, Servette vs. FC Basel 7:45 am. Park Joo-Ho has had a revitalization at Basel, regaining his starting position and earning some accolades.
Portugal, Maritimo vs Moreirense, 11 am. Suk Hyun-Jun returns from a red card suspension for Maritimo. He scored a pretty head turning goal several weeks ago.
Spain, Sevilla vs. Celta Vigo 3:30 p.m. beIN Sport, beIN Sport Spanish Cross your fingers for Park Chu-Young. Will he get his chance with a new manager at Celta?
We leave on a WTF news of Dennis Rodman’s trip, where the colorful ex Chicago Bull was seen pallin’ it up with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un. An NPR article exclaimed surprise about how much access Dennis had to the ‘dear leader’, considering Governor Bill Richardson and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt couldn’t get near him in their mission of mercy trip last January. What was the trip about, a diplomatic basketball exhibition match, right after they blew up a nuke, a violation of international law? Whatevs, the Dennis has made a new friend, let’s hope some diplomatic goodwill can come from that.