January 4, 2013
Pardon the tissue boxes placed strategically around the Tavern today, it’s my birthday and coincidentally I’m down with the flu. Go figure. Still there’s a bit of unusual optimism around here as we are about to kick off the new year with the 2nd half of the European season getting underway.
We’ll start first with some old news. Should’ve relayed this on New Years Day, but family obligations, work and getting sick has given me an alibi (excuses you say). Let’s quickly review New Year’s day matches, first with Ki Sung-Yeung ‘assisting’ with Danny Graham’s last gasp equalizer in stoppage time. ‘Assist’ as in Ki initially got credited for -and for all practical purposes delivered an assist. However on close examination, after Ki received the ball in the box during a mad scramble, he managed to quasi-backheel the ball to Graham, who struck a shot that bounced off an Aston Villa defender’s back -luckily it came straight at Graham who timed the volley perfectly -into the back of the net. And talk about last second, look at the youtube replay :
Meanwhile, in other New Years action, Kim Bo-Kyung got the start for Cardiff’s away match at Birmingham City. He played 67 minutes in a 0-1 win for the Bluebirds. They now sit quite comfortably 1st in the Npower Championship table, 7 points ahead of Hull. If they were ever worried about falling off the cliff and ‘doing the Cardiff’ (as in choking that they are historically known for in the past), their present form, gangbuster home record and this 7 point spread should give them quite a bit of confidence going into the 2nd half of the season. In other words, get ready for the Premiership boys.
Can’t quite say the same for Bolton as they go down in flames 0-1 to Leeds United. Lee Chung-Yong, who had the admiration of new-ish manager Dougie Freedman on last Saturday’s stunner of a goal against Birmingham (they’re on a bit of a losing streak seemingly), played 68 minutes at Leeds. There’s some strong indications that Stoke City is looking to add Lee’s midfielding talents to their squad during the January transfer window, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet.
And on Wednesday, the real shocker of the New Year came as QPR actually beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the first time since 1982! The 0-1 score came courtesy of some brilliant goalkeeping by Julio Cesar, defenders like Clint Hill actually defending and a 2nd half finish by ex Chelsea man Shaun Wright-Phillips. Almost as exciting as a rare QPR win (only their 2nd this season if I’m not mistaken), Park Ji-Sung recovered from his months long knee injury to join in the fun at the 90th minute, subbing in for Granero. As long as he can hold that knee of his together, we can expect to see more of Park as QPR will try to make their great escape from relegation, with Harry “Houdini” Rednapp at the helm.
Got some aggregate news to share, but before the weekend has come and gone, let’s get to the weekend listings, shall we? It’s an FA Cup weekend in the British Isles and the return of La Liga from their winter slumbers. [all times are set for US Eastern Standard Time. Internet streaming should be available worldwide, except perhaps in Syria and China]
England FA Cup, Macclesfield vs. Cardiff City 10 a.m. foxsoccer2go.com (tape at 2 on Fox Soccer Plus) –Although I’m not sure why I included this as Cardiff is expected to install all their non 1st team squad members. Kim Bo-Kyung and company are expected to get some rotational rest.
England FA Cup, Bolton vs. Sunderland 10 a.m. No TV/Internet? No worries about Lee Chung-Yong going up against Ji Dong-Won: if you haven’t heard the good news yet, Ji already transfered and training as we speak for Augsburg.
England FA Cup, QPR vs West Bromwich Albion 10 a.m. No TV/Internet? More Park Ji-Sung time? I’d imagine Harry Rednapp has more important matters on his mind, particularly the task of trying to escape relegation. Nevertheless, they have a game on hand and what better way for Ji-Sung to shore up some fitness coming back from knee injury than with some FA Cup playing time. QPR fans take note: Ben Haim was snatched up by Rednapp’s forces to shore up the central defense -and he will be eligible to play on Saturday.
Spain, Celta Vigo vs Real Valladolid 6 a.m. No TV/Internet? Park Chu-Young is a likely starter given his re-energized Rocky-esque one man training show at Celta’s training center during the winter break. For several days, it was just him and him alone as he practiced, worked out, and was in short -grew to be a badass in the training center. The rest of his teammates came back from break and Park seems to be back to impressing boss Herrera -enough to give him the keys to the starting XI again. While he did score 3 goals in the first half of the season, there was disappointment from both Celta and Park in the overall paucity of goals. If there was an impeding confidence issue as a long-term hang-up from last years’ frustrating time at Arsenal, there is hope that Park can shake it off, and with this renewed drive, find the form that made him a sought after striker at Monaco. Celta news: some January transfer action as Celta shored up the backline with centerback Vadim Demidov coming over from Eintracht Frankfurt on loan until the end of the season. SportalKorea correspondent and blogger Santiago Perez highlights Park’s re-start to 2013 as well as Demidov’s intro to Celta in his blog rainmaker18.com. Next Wednesday, they have the 2nd leg of the Copa del Rey match at Real Madrid. Oooo and Ahhh is the right reaction to have as Celta is up 2-1 in the aggregate scoreline as they won the first leg against them last month. Park nearly scored each time they’ve clashed with Real Madrid, and you can bet he is itching to get his boots to smash one in, this time at the Bernabeu. Transfer update: Iago Aspas has been sought after by Swansea City for the January window. It’s no secret Micheal Ladrup favors Spanish style football for his club, and he has been watching Iago for a good part of the season. However, a deal has yet to emerge.
England FA Cup, Swansea City vs. Arsenal 8:30 a.m. Fox Soccer, Fox Deportes (tape at 11 on foxsoccer2go.com) Ki Sung-Yeung and his Swansea mates had Arsenal’s number in the last regular season match they played, and it turned out to be a highlight of Swansea’s 2012. The only problem this time is, Swansea is a bit worn out, having played a ton of matches during the festive season and between this FA Cup match and Capitol Cup game next Wednesday against Chelsea, something might have to give. Conventional wisdom says the Swans will pool their collective resources towards next Wednesday’s Capital Cup game as it’s the semi-finals of that competition. Chelsea is the strongest team remaining in that tournament, and if they can knock them out, the Swans will march on into the finals at Wembley -presumably to clean house. Regardless, Michael Ladrup will no doubt institute some kind of rotational with his nimble roster. Expect Ki to either play this game against Arsenal or against Chelsea, or minutes in both matches.
That’s it for games in the next couple of days. Some transfer news: here’s a South Korean that’s escaped my radar until now, Kim Kyung-Jung a right winger (not an Allen West/Geert Wilder/Musolini type right winger mind you) is now on loan to SM Caen, a Ligue 2 team located in Normandy, France. He had been with Tallinna FC Olympic, an Estonian side. SM Caen is currently in 3rd place on the Ligue 2 table, right behind AS Monaco and FC Nantes. Ligue 2 features another Korean player, FC Nantes forward Lee Yong-Jae.
Japanese born North Korean international Jong Tae-Se has been traded to K-League’s Suwon Bluewings. He had been a member of FC Koln, which was relegated at the end of last season. According the ChosunIlbo, Jong will arrive in Seoul on Monday for a medical and join the team training in Guam.
Stephan Reuter, Augsburg’s new General Manager was happy with the overall timing, telling Augsburg’s official website: “It’s good the transfer worked out before the start of the training. Ji Dong-Won can be used in several positions.” While Ji had been listed a a striker for Sunderland, he had previously played on the left wing for South Korean national football team.
A man who is already in the Tavern’s Hall of Fame (yet to be built, I’m still planning the addition to the Tavern), Hong Myong-Bo skipper of the 2002 South Korean World Cup team, coach of the 2012 Bronze medal Summer Olympic Taeguk Warrior team, and now an assistant coach under Guus Hiddink. He’ll be joining Guus in the cold terrains of Russia to help manage the likes of Samuel Eto and club Anzhi Makhachkala. Guus Hiddink is in the (future) Tavern Hall of Fame for his role as the Taeguk Warriors’ manager in 2002, so Hong will be learning from the best. And according to the Korea Joonang Daily, there’s rumors circulating that Hong may be tapped to replace Choi Kang-hee as the senior South Korean national team manager.
To the K-League as news is trickling out about how the new relegated division will be delineated. Turns out the new relegated division will turn into the K-League —-What in all that is holy is going on here? Let’s start with the new logos issued for both the regular and newly relegated divisions:
The K League’s regular non-relegated division will henceforth be named “K League Classic” while the new relegated division will carry on the K League title. Bonkers you say? The Tavern’s going to have to agree with you. K League Classic- it denotes such classic marketing blunders like Coke Classic. (At the risk of offending golf+football fans who peruse the Tavern) the boring game -otherwise known as golf -has quite a number of games with Classic in it’s title. Classic denotes old, not a good image for the image conscious younger set. There are those who would say, wait Tavern, you just don’t know Asian culture -it’s what will work with Asian fans. To borrow an old Irish turn of phrase, it’s a bunch of malarky. Why confuse people across the board by naming the new relegated division, the K League, when that has been (up until now) your marquee league name for the regular division. Why not call the relegated division “K League 2”? That’s what France does to differentiate between Ligue 1 and Ligue 2. Germany as well, between 2.Bundesliga and Bundesliga. Need more naming inspirations? Italy’s Serie A and Serie B. Ok, not a time to be angry. KFA, K-League, K-League Classic or whoever the hell is in charge, you have until the start of the season in March to fix this glaring error. Re-assemble your so-called ‘naming committee’ and get cracking now.
UPDATE: it’s most unusual to be adding something here based on the Facebook mini-version of the Tavern of the Taeguk Warriors, but a conversation there has piqued my interest. After the publication of this post went out early on Saturday morning, a BigSoccer Korean Abroad poster informed me that he actually liked the idea of the naming proposals – on the grounds that they separate the names of the leagues in drastically different ways. The alternative of naming them simply K League 1 and K League-2 could be predictable/boring. On further reflection, he had a point there. Nevertheless, I still couldn’t get around the idea of ‘Classic’ in place of what is currently the regular division, so I rudely woke up the Tavern’s Minister of Ideas and gave him the challenge of fixing the K-League naming disaster. None too happy, he nevertheless quickly came up with this idea: the regular division keeps the K-League name, and the new relegated division could be called the “Challenger League.” It’s not like “Challenged” which may have a stigma about it, but “Challenger” instead has a more positive sounding ring to it. It has a spirit of can-do-it-ness as each club battles to rise above and win promotion back to the K-League. So there you have it folks, K League and Challenger League. You can fire the official naming committee members and just go ahead and hire my Minister of Ideas (I just need a transfer fee or you can’t have him).
Meanwhile in a bit of alarming news, racism has reared it’s ugly head again, this time in a friendly match between AC Milan and lower tiered Pro Patria. Home fans in one particular section hurled racist insults towards AC Milan’s black players. Suddenly, Ghanian international Kevin-Prince Boateng had enough. He kicked the ball in anger towards the offending section of the stadium, then walked off the field. He was joined by the rest of his teammates in solidarity and the game was called off. A prosecutor is looking to investigate and arrest people involved in the event. Here’s a youtube clip:
Which brings me to another transfer possibility: Park Jong-Woo in a recent interview, disclosed his interest in going to Italy’s Serie A. The midfielder, released from his compulsory military service by helping win the Bronze for South Korea during the 2012 Summer Olympics, courted controversy after the last match with his “Dokdo is Ours” sign made by a fan following the 3rd place victory over Japan. With a minimal fine and a 2 game international suspension marking the final chapter of the controversy, Park could very well make it over to Serie A, but the incident that Kevin-Prince Boateng and others faced may be an endemic problem that will likely not end if and/or when he comes over to Europe.
Lastly, in the aftermath of the school shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School several weeks ago, the MLS has quietly organized a “Soccer at Newtown” event featuring an all star lineup on January 7th. Even as word got out virally about the event, the MLS wanted to keep this a closed affair so as to keep it very local, just for the people of Newtown, Connecticut. For more on this, take a look here.
That last bit of news brought about some heaviness, so to lighten the mood before I end the post, I’ve got a clip from the Nam June Paik exhibit showing right now in Washington D.C.’s Smithonian Museum of American Art. If you don’t know Nam June Paik, he’s a Korean born artist who eventually moved to the US and created some wild and weird TV art. Definitely ahead of his times, he passed away in 2006, but his works live on. In the first clip, my son Miles is spontaneously dancing crazily to one of his installations. In the second, it’s a surreal vision of a TV garden. Enjoy the weekend!