It’s like a hangover, only it’s lasted much much longer. And yet, the sun somehow is still shining. Only days after an early exit from the World Cup and a rude arrival awaiting team Korea on it’s return to Seoul, the Tavern’s carried on with much discussion in the wake of the Yeot toss seen ’round the world. The synthesis from it all: what is the way forward for Korean football?Not to beat a dead 말 further, the incident however has had a bit of reverberation. Worldwide media attention has spotlighted the incident. From the Guardian Football Weekly to ESPN TV live commentators calling the Argentina Switzerland game, they’ve all referred to the incident, relaying it as part of the whole drama/chaos swirling around this Brazilian World Cup. Different reactions from Koreans has trended negative towards the Yeot tossers/banner wavers (Korean Football is Dead), but gauging from our own Tavern, there’s pitched battles on the merits or demerits of said action. While the incident will be looked at through different lenses – for bridge mending purposes between the Yeot toss approvers and disapprovers (even between the Tavern writers there’s different consensus), there can be this agreement: Korean football has to improve. Structural change is vital if Korea ever decides that it wants to really compete as an international footballing contender. But I’m being told it’s time for a commercial break – what? There aren’t any commercials lined up? Ok Barcelona academy player Lee Seung-Woo highlight from the Al Kass cup will have to do. Stay with us, the Tavern will be back in a moment…
[Tavern promo commercial: Be on the lookout soon for the Tavern owner’s observation of the last group match vs Belgium. It’s a hilarious and bitter misadventure into the heart of DC to find support in watching Korea’s last stand in the World Cup, coming soon on Channel Tavern]
And we’re back. I’m twisting forward and back chronologically in this blog-cast, so stay with me here. First the Forward; when talking about the way forward, as in advancing Korean football forward, what do I mean? It could mean different things to different people, but how about Korea one day being a consistently deep World Cup squad for starters. Sure Korea qualified for the World Cup 8 consecutive times, but only twice has Korea advanced past the group stage. Mexico in comparison has made it to the Round of 16 for 6 consecutive times (and eliminated there all 6 times). There’s naysayers -some pointing to 2014’s results. Despite that, why not in the future? When a small country like Costa Rica [CONCACAF] is having a moment similar to Korea’s magical 2002 World Cup run, they do so with a population of 4.5 million within 51 square km (South Korea has 2x the land, and 11x the population in comparison). While Asia has had a setback as a whole in this World Cup, the world’s largest continent is bound to make a comeback in the international scene. The question remains: will Korea be part of that?
One writer for Yonhap recently referred to Korea’s 2002 semifinal World Cup run, cynically saying Korea probably won’t likely see that again. Sometimes a Tavern owner just has to disagree. Ok, there are no guarantees in life. But take another country, the US of A. Between Korea & the US, they aren’t even in the same league as far as population and land mass, but there is a parallel. Both have a population interested in football roughly every 4 years (and there’s more parallels like an inadequate university system for player development). That surface deep interest doesn’t win World Cups. But as it relates to the Coupe de Monde, a statistician made this prognostication: if the US ever decided to pool it’s vast resources towards that goal of reaching the finals – mind you we’re talking about a complete overhaul in just about all aspects of American life, radically revamp it’s youth training (soccer mom concept has to go) and the even more difficult task of a cultural transformation – believe it or not, it’s quite possible. We are, though, talking about the kind of sustained herculean effort that put a man on the moon. According to the algorithm, the US could pull it off – give or take 20+ years… Maybe. But looking at the USA/Belgium quarterfinals last night, the surging interest, record breaking TV viewership, the growing numbers at MLS stadiums, one gets the sense that maybe, just maybe… this lumbering behemoth may awaken it’s inner football power -and sow havoc on the football world in the process. They are getting closer…
Working with a number of writers -including Jinseok who is typing as we speak on an epic post – there will be a ‘blueprint for the future’ (accompanied by echoes ‘blueprint for the future x3…’). So let’s get constructive, this is interactive – I want to hear from you on ways Korean football can move forward. You can either submit it on the comment section below, email, post at the Tavern Facebook site – alternately we’ll have a new page dedicated at that Tavern soon on just that topic from which you can submit your ideas.
The KFA is frequently a target for supporters – what reforms would make a difference? Could be it reworking it’s corporate collusion with the chaebols? I’d imagine some would make wholesale changes to the KNT, other surgical in areas. What would you do for the next 4 year World Cup campaign -and possibly beyond? Across the board – how can the quality of Korean coaching across the board improve? How about the K-League and lower divisions –how to get the masses into the stadiums & increase TV visibility? What about youth academy programs, university & the K-League draft? The ever problematic but always sensitive military conscription issue? Currently there’s a KFA program that helps youth go abroad to develop (think Son Heung-Min -sent to Hamburg as a 16 year old) – keep that as is or tweak it?
Yes, a blueprint for the future. It could be the best antidote for a World Cup hangover. We’re going to propose a way forward, bringing some of our thoughts into it along with culling the free-marketplace of ideas from around the diaspora, from other writers, clubs, players (maybe -they’re hard to get ahold of), and ex-players (more of a possibility. When we are finished, together we will submit it to the headquarters of the KFA and the K-League. We’ll also have it up at the Tavern as it’s own dedicated page – tacked on like a manifesto. Will it make a difference? Maybe. Or Maybe not. There are no guarantees in life. But you never know who will read it and what possible impact ideas have to influence the long term vision -that of a brighter future for Korean football. Dae Han Min Guk ya’ll. Tavern out.
and as to the Present: K-League football resumes tomorrow, check it out:
Saturday, July 5
Sunday, July 6
I’ll be able to see some of these matches from here in the US, my toddler daughter usually gets up early at 6, so we’ll watch together. Very exciting! The KNT World Cup players based in the K-league aren’t likely to feature for some time however.
>Another commercial break, check out this video feature from Yahoo! Sports where they highlight the rise of football and football culture over taking baseball in Japan. A must see to get an idea of what Japan is doing right (and where the K-League could take a page from).
Yeot toss / banner controversy thoughts from the Tavern Owner: my own take is that while it’s ok that some people are angry, it’s important to channel that constructively. That’s why the yeot toss seen in the full context with the things that have limited Korean football, it’s misdirected anger. One example of why it’s misdirected anger: in spite of 2002’s euphoria, Koreans have abandoned the K-League -with few exceptions leaving stadiums virtually empty. And yet, K-League teams have won 3 of the past 5 Asian Championship titles. You wouldn’t know that Korea has any football culture judging on TV audience shares and K-League attendance rates. Talk about shame – that should be a real source and reflection should be directed there.
With all due respect, I believe pitchfork angry mobs represent reactionary impulses, the end result could mean less than a constructive or satisfactory process to get positive changes going. Going back to the early stages of the World Cup qualifying campaign, in 2011 Cho Kwang-Rae getting sacked after 3-0 loss to Lebanon resulted in the KFA installing Choi Kang-Hee, and KNT supporters all know how that story ended. Ok, here’s an imperfect analogy that US based Tavern goers might understand: in the wake of catastrophe, improper lack of regulation leading to the housing mortgage crisis and 2 unfunded wars of choice towards the end of George W Bush’s presidency, the US economy was in a tailspin. Enter the election of the first black president in US history and suddenly the Tea Party emerges as a reactionary force, pitchforks and guns in hand in the backdrop of the Great Recession. Rather than participating in a rational conversation to move the country away from the disaster brought on with help from the former administration (that they largely voted for), they engaged in uncivil unrest. Nothing wrong with that in of itself, but their raison d’etre consisted of racist conspiracy theories (Obama was a muslim born in Kenya), Ayn Randian ideology (who needs regulation when we can have Chinese industrial toxins in our imported foods?) and so many other cases of downright nuttiness (see Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Michele Bachman, James Inhofe, Ann Coulter, etc etc etc). Speaking of Ann Coulter, see her article about the newfound American love for soccer, calling it a sign of the nation’s “moral decay” ? She’s continuing her crazy hate for football according to Politico.
There’s more but my kids are leaving me behind, they want to go to the park for 4th of July stuff. I’ll save it here and possibly update more. back from the park…
To clarify: it’s an imperfect analogy. No, the yeot throwers aren’t racist crazy misanthropes. But I mention the latter as the cautionary tale of the problem with misplaced anger and reactionary knee jerk impulses.
What’s done is done. While I don’t condone the actions of yeot throwing and waving the banner “Korean football is dead” – I don’t think all Tavern goers will ever come to a common consensus on it.
I suspect there would’ve been more sympathy for yeot tossing if:
1. We went back to time to June 2010
2. Korea swapped places with France
Enough said. Dae Han Min Guk.