The media often refers to Pohang’s youth academy (Pohang Jecheol High School) as a 화수분, referring how it endlessly churns out exciting talents – off the top of my head we have Korean household names such as Lee dong gook, Shin jin ho, Lee myung joo, Kim seung dae, Hwang hee chan, Moon chang jin, and Son joon ho. Now, let’s hope to add to that list two brothers who have consistently been active for our youth national teams: Lee Gwang Hoon (22) and Lee Gwang Hyeok (20). The former has struggled for playing time after being loaned out to Daejeon and now signed for Suwon City, while last season Lee Gwang Hyeok finally made his first team debut and managed to play 19 games (8 starts, 900 minutes) while scoring 2 goals before injury hit him again. I am a fan of both players but for today, let’s focus on the younger brother.
Last season there were two teenage players getting decent playing time in the league: Seo myung won and Lee gwang hyeok. SMW is probably familiar to most by now (a post on him will come later) but LGH has largely been unable to make a name for himself at big tournaments due to injury. Like SMW, LGH was involved with all the national youth team setups, but only managed to play in small friendlies. He was supposed to play at the 2014 U19 tournament but got injured, and he was also supposed to play at the recent 2016 AFC U23 Championship (Olympic Qualifiers) but again got injured.
Why is Lee Gwang Hyeok rated so highly? Well for starters, he was a prodigy at an early age, sweeping MVP / top scorer / top assister awards since elementary school, won three high school league championships with Pohang Jecheol HS, and captained the illustrious team his final year of HS. The word on the street is that whenever he entered a tournament he would rake in all the MVP / top ___ awards. In the interview with him on the TV show “Wonderful K League,” he was asked to confirm the rumor that he has so many awards from his grade school days that he does not remember any of them, which he modestly declined.
Interestingly, LGH says that he was never really an athletic type and often spent most of his time playing computer games until his parents enrolled him in soccer worrying that he spent too much time indoors. His older brother Lee Gwang Hoon was already involved with soccer, so LGH even today says that if it wasn’t for his brother he never would have become serious about soccer / adapted to the athletic lyfe. In fact, he had never once considered becoming a footballer (and had 0 interest in football) until he saw his older brother get scouted to elementary school soccer teams.
Here’s a highlight vid of him in his last year with Pohang Jecheol playing in the 왕중왕전, probably the biggest HS tournament in Korea held towards the end of the year (fun fact: #18 in the vid is Hwang Hee Chan, who was in his second year of HS at the time, while #10 for Jeonbuk is Kim Shin, who recently came back from Olympique Lyon).
After going through the Pohang youth ranks he signed immediately for the pro team for the 2014 season and actually made his debut at 18 years old pretty quickly against Cerezo Osaka in the ACL. In the K League he made some appearances for Pohang in the summer, but was again hit by injury playing against Jeonnam. This past 2015 season, however, he had quite the “breakout season,” with two goals and a crucial goal line clearance to boot!
One of those two goals was the winning 2-1 in a victory against Daejeon. After going 1 down due to Hwang In Beom’s wonder shot, Hwang Sun Hong made three subs, all of whom either scored or assisted in the comeback win:
There is only one ball touch vid of Lee GH I can find. And from this one video I think his two primary strengths are apparent: 1. speed and 2. dribbling. At only 169 cm he’s quite good at accelerating, beating his fullback and running behind the defense (though largely with pace), and getting fouled. In the high school level LGH played AM and was always attempting throughballs – but with Pohang Steelers he’s largely played on the wings, probably because his physicality is not yet up to par and his speed can be exploited in the later stages of games.
Lee Gwang Hyeok so far has played in two of Pohang’s four matches. With the form Shim Dong Woon is in right now (4 goals in 4 games), it may be hard for LGH to start, but if he continues to impress as a sub and get more playing time, I think he has a good shot of making the Olympics team later this year.
Cool thoughts. Hopefully he breaks into Pohang side. Thanks Jinseok. Keep ’em coming!