Happy Birthday to you…happy birthday dear Tavern…come to think of it, I’ve never sang to the Tavern personified. No time for sentimentality, there’s important discussions to continue, especially as there’s some interesting movement in Korea – a potential solution being worked out legislatively to one of Korean football’s most systemic problems – what to do about mandatory military conscription. Especially as it crushes potential for footballers to improve their professional careers. It’s a crucial idea that I brought up over a year and half ago on the football site In Bed With Maradona, with the solution being deceptively simple: deferment. More on that later – it’s been a while that I’ve tended bar here so let’s catch up – by catching our collective breaths about several big transfers, including Park Joo-Ho to Borussia Dortmund and Koo Ja-Cheol back in Augsburg – an Augsburg side that will now have a total of 3 Koreans in their first team! And let’s not forget a World Cup qualifier against Laos featuring Vitoria Setubal’s Suk Hyun-Jun up top tomorrow (or today in Korea) September 3…
Park Joo-Ho – transfer from Mainz to Borussia Dortmund. When ex Mainz boss Tuchel took the reins from Klopp, the thought was intriguing – could he bring his highly rated LB Park Joo-Ho with him to the venerable hip club of Germany? Last weekend, the answer was yes. Europa League football and currently top in the Bundesliga, it’s a great move for Park and BVB (and allows me to get back to rooting for them).
Koo Ja-Cheol – transfer from Mainz to Augsburg. With Koo finding less opportunities to make impact for Mainz, this was a timely move on the last day of the German transfer window. Koo had a renaissance at the Bavarian club when on loan from Wolfsburg 2 seasons ago. With his return now permanent, Augsburg suddenly becomes a very distinctly Korean friendly club, with Ji Dong-Won and Hong Jeong-Ho already on board.
Perhaps the other contributors might comment more on these very recent transfers – Son Heung-Min to Tottenham is still something I’m coming to grips with.
Due to the recent transfers, partial availability for those players as some will be on hand for the Laos WCQ, others only for the Lebanon match next Tuesday. I’m not going to be on hand to preview the upcoming WCQ’s – I leave that in the very capable hands of the Tavern writers, but here’s the international break fixture list :
Korea v Laos 8 pm Korea Time / 7 am US EST
Lebanon v Korea 11 pm Korea Time / 10 am US EST
We move on to the idea of a solution to the military conscription problem plaguing Korean football, which myself and others had previously written about. Some background: Koreans have to serve in the military for roughly two years before age 30. A distinct problem for Korean footballers as age 28 is at the peak of a player’s career. It can impact their ability to move abroad to Europe and challenge themselves in that ultra competitive environment. Only if they are involved with a major tournament win in KNT uniform (any Olympic medal or Asian games Gold) could they earn rare military exemption. In recent years, the 2014 Asian Games squad and the 2012 Olympic team won exemptions – but there’s no guarantees they will continue that streak (Before that, only the history making 2002 World Cup squad won exemption – which happened to be a one time exemption). With Son Heung-Min among other young players who don’t have exemption, the possibility looms that they will have to come back from the high profile stage of Europe to serve in the military (and play for the middling Sangju army team). This is obviously an ongoing problem for the KFA and the KNT – with little traction until now for legislative solutions (given the current cold war atmosphere) to offer practical alternative options for top notch Korean players. I suggested in 2014 that Korea adopt a ‘deferment’ option in the IBWM piece, based in part on the Israeli football model. They also have a very strict military draft, but allow top players to serve their military time post-career or in piece meal during summer breaks. A reasonable balance between national security needs and advancing their football program to stay competitive internationally.
Now there’s encouraging signs that Korea is considering a landmark change allowing citizens born after 1996 to defer their military service. According to SportalKorea, Son Heung-Min’s superstar status and high profile move to Tottenham may have ‘spurred’ (drum roll) Koreans to ask themselves what they can do to prevent him from being forced to return to Korea before his prime playing days are over. The subtext here: Son is a pivotal football ambassador, and his return would expose an embarrassing flaw in the Korean system that would artificially curtail his European career. But wait, what is the article talking about —Son was born in 1992. If the law does get enacted and caps off at the 1996 benchmark – Son won’t be included in military deferment options. But Lee Seung-Woo would. Born in 1998, he would qualify – which would make the Barcelona academy player a bit more secure in navigating his career in Europe. The glass half full at this point – the draft of the law could potentially still be amended to include players like Son born in 1992 and afterward. Stay tuned.
Speaking of Lee Seung-Woo, his U17 team drew 1-1 with Nigeria earlier today in the Suwon Park Ji-Sung tournament. I was geo-blocked from watching the match so I don’t have much to add to that. Tavern writers – can anyone their 2 cents on the match?
I know what I said, no sentimentality on the 3 year anniversary… and yet the sentimentalist in me does want to talk about the 3 year anniversary of the founding of the Tavern. It doesn’t seem that long ago -but SO much has happened in that span. I’ll simply share one of my favorite moments – getting a Kim Bo-Kyung jersey from Cardiff, signed by Kim himself and hand delivered to me by former Tavern contributor Chris Harris, a Welsh native. We met in DC while Chris was in town- and I was incredibly surprised – surprised and literally blown away! That gesture back in 2012 opened up a crazy sequence of events, including yours truly going to Wales in 2013 to interview Kimbo about military conscription. It’s difficult to summarize everything that’s happened to Kimbo since then, the highs of promotion to the EPL, the lows of relegation – of poor management and worse ownership problems – not to mention a texting scandal from then manager Malky Mackaye that illuminated racist jokes at Kimbo’s expense. Now with his return to J-League football this season, one hopes that Kim’s career will get back on track. Meanwhile, Cardiff has been able to restore the original 107 year traditional colors of blue back in an overwhelming support drive to undo Vincent Tan’s unilateral decisions that outraged an entire community – though they are back to struggling in Championship division obscurity. To conclude my message about the 3 year bday for the Tavern, it’s this bridging of cultures, of communities, and the opportunity to stretch (and the endless possibilities to do just about anything – which allowed me to go overseas and witness what makes European football culture so dynamic) — all that is what I love about writing for the Tavern. Raise a glass for the joint – may we continue to gather in this metaphorical place and continue the conversations. Manseh!
[ BTW – I’ll be doing an informal crowd funding event soon to help with web hosting costs. We don’t have to raise much – but it will keep the Tavern afloat and commercial free ].
PS: if you’re in the DC, Maryland, Virginia metro area and are looking for something to do on Saturday September 5 – come to Frederick Maryland at 5pm for an indie film screening and an underground hip hop live showcase.
That’s one of my side projects, trying to push the cultural envelop in my city. We don’t have independent cinema here in Frederick – so I’m hosting this ‘pop up’ screening to spur the conversation forward about the need to establish indie cinema. Ex Machina is a british indie sci-fi released last April. It’s a heady mix of philosophy about AI taking the form of a thriller flick. We’re doing this at an abandoned warehouse turned into a multipurpose arts/concert and now indie cinema – we call it 200 East Art Haus. Talk to me if you’re interested in coming up on Saturday afternoon and/or check out the FB events page. Here’s a trailer. Come hang out with the old Tavern owner – cervesa on me.