#13 on our 15 for 2015 list features our favorite Barca kids Paik Seung Ho, Lee Seung Woo, and Jang Gyeol Hee. 2015 was a (somewhat) eventful year, and 2016 is going to be a defining year for all three of them, as January 2016 is when the stupid FIFA ban finally expires. Unfortunately, some cannot play right away – Lee Seung Woo turns 18 on the 6th and has to register, while Jang Gyeol Hee turns 18 in April so cannot even train with Barcelona until then, and won’t be able to play until the summer. Anyway, let’s review what happened in 2015 and what we should expect in 2016.
Paik Seung Ho:
I remember more than 5 years ago when Paik first signed with Barcelona, and caused quite a stir in the soccer community. I was so interested I even began asking around on Barcelona’s forums how you follow youth leagues. I eventually came across the Catalan Football Federation’s website and began checking it every Sunday for results, and thanks to some guy on Facebook (who I suspect was the guy who uploaded all the BSH/LSW/JGH ball touch vids back in 2012-13 as 한방이얍), I was even able to watch some of their tournament matches live. FIFA deprived us of this joy, but as 2016 rolls around, Paik Seung Ho – a much taller and mature PSH (god it’s so weird seeing him not short) – has the chance to make his mark (and give FIFA the middle finger).
2015 has been largely uneventful for PSH, no thanks to Kim Sang Ho’s ill fated AFC U19 Championship run, a tournament we usually win. Talking points for PSH’s 2015 include the Suwon U18 Cup and his training sessions with the first team
The Suwon Cup was unfortunate for Paik Seung Ho. Although as fans we could clearly see that PSH was a grade above the other central midfielders (the lack of midfield presence was horrifically frustrating), PSH never started until the very last match. When he did come on in the last couple minutes of the Uruguay and Belgium games he made some very flashy moves, notably an amazing lobbed throughpass vs. Uruguay. And when he finally got to start in the France match, the tactics were all wrong as Ahn Ik Soo started Lee Seung Woo and Paik Seung Ho together up top in a 4-4-2.
Now, sometime around mid-October, Paik Seung Ho signed a contract renewal with Barcelona. Ever since then, until late-November, Paik Seung Ho was constantly training with the first team. Videos surfaced with Paik training alongside the likes of Messi, Neymar, Suarez, etc., and he even got to play alongside them in training.
Now, PSH is back with Barca B considering he can start playing with the team in just a week. The question remains, however: was he training with the first team because of footballing merit or just for inspiration during a hard time in which he can’t even play a game? Who knows? But according to the press, Luis Enrique wanted to “reward” PSH for his loyalty to Barcelona. More reliable may be the Barca B coach Gerard Lopez: “Paik & Lee are two good players. I know more about Paik & I really like him, he is spectacular. Lee is more known in media.” Make of that what you will, but I strongly suspect the latter to the original question.
In 2016, Paik will be the first player of our three to step back onto the pitch. Most likely, he will alternate between Juvenil A and Barca B due to the rust. But if he adapts fast enough, who knows, maybe he might make a Barcelona A team debut in a meaningless friendly over the summer. Because if the press is to be believed, he is in held in very high regard by Enrique and Lopez. Lee Seung Woo will also start up by alternating between Juvenil A and Barca B. This way, both of them will be able to shed rust and play in the UEFA Youth League.
Lee Seung Woo: Lee enjoyed a much busier 2015 thanks to both Suwon U17 and U18 tournaments, and the FIFA U17 World Cup. We’ve pretty much covered all three of those tournaments in depth. To make a long story short, Lee could consistently show flashes of his brilliance in each game, but couldn’t score or make the same impact that he used to, which is understandable considering how rusty he must be.
Unfortunately, Lee wasn’t even able to train with Barcelona because FIFA added another nasty little interpretation to Article 19. The whole “banned from games” thing became extended to being “banned from training.” It was also reported that FIFA asked the players to vacate their houses as well. Thus, Lee had to relocate, and his destination of choice was Suwon City FC. Interestingly, Barcelona sent their own personnel to Korea so Lee’s training could be supervised.
Most recently, LSW played in HMB’s charity match, scoring three goals for his team. He also had some… *interesting* goal celebrations.
Jang Gyeol Hee: Jang is every bit as talented as Paik and Lee. Watch him play and just as you will notice that PSH and LSW are different animals, it’s clearly visible that JGH is a different animal of his own. But the kid had such an unfortunate 2015. His only action came from the Suwon U17 Cup. He got injured right before the World Cup, and was forced to watch the games in the commentator’s box (but he did appear on TV and commentate which was really cool). Moreover, he is the youngest of the 3, meaning he won’t be 18 until April, and by extension, won’t be able to play until the next season.
Due to the ridiculous FIFA reinterpretation, Jang also relocated to Suwon City FC, where he trains with the team alongside LSW and the Barcelona supervisor. It really is sad that we will have to wait until the preseason friendlies to see him in action.