Guus Hiddink returns to Korea?!

Korea’s last game in the final qualification round against Uzbekistan ended in a blank score and Korea had narrowly avoided being dropped out of the Russia World Cup. There was something about the ambience on the pitch; not many were thrilled to celebrate the nation’s ninth consecutive qualification. Players were “trying” to celebrate and knew they were still far from winning the fans’ trust and support. It has been said by Lee Dong-Guk, the most successful and experienced player in K-League called up to the national team for the final two games under coach Shin, that he himself had a hard time trying to bear the pressure from the critics. When everything seemed forlorn within the KNT society, Guus Hiddink, the legendary hero of 2002 WC, swept the media away the following day. And as a result, the year 2017 ended in a hectic, chaotic way in the KFA administration office. What happened in the Hiddink saga this past September?

Not even a day passed after securing a spot in the Russia WC. A spokesperson of Guus Hiddink Foundation announced: In June, after the dismissal of Uli Stielike, Hiddink made an offer to manage the Korean national team if citizens of Korea desired such a move. The offer made in June was revealed to the public three months later in September. With ongoing problems with the KNT, Hiddink seemed to be the answer to KNT’s current misery and to many frustrated fans. Surely, he could be the one to rescue Korean football, the fans thought.

Returning home from Uzbekistan, the KFA’s new technical director, Kim Ho-Gon, was bombarded with reporters asking to explain the truth behind Hiddink’s offer in June. Kim made it clear that such an offer was never made and stated that there wouldn’t be any activity on Guus Hiddink’s potential recruitment. Finally defending the current manager, Kim expressed his displeasure by complaining about how Hiddink was making such a statement in this point in time when KFA had already chosen Shin Tae Yong as the successor of Uli Stielike.

However, what seemed like a rumor was proved true. The GH Foundation held a press conference to clarify the interaction it had with the Technical Director. The foundation confirmed it had contacted Kim Ho-Gon about the head coach position after Stielike’s sack. This was corroborated by a text message that was sent to Kim. Hiddink respected KFA’s decision to stay with Shin Tae Yong and most importantly offered once again to help in any way possible.

After the press conference, the media focused on Kim Ho-Gon’s denial of the initial interaction. Demanding truth, fans pointed fingers at Kim for deliberately lying to the public and asked him to step down. By this, Kim admitted the interaction with Guus Hiddink and confessed he did not find the offer appropriate at that time.

When it seemed as if the situation could not get any worse in the office, KFA was hit with corruption charges exactly eight days after the Hiddink incident. Twelve officials and employees were indicted for misappropriating the organization’s funds. According to Seoul Police Agency, these officials had misused the fund in 220 occasions, spending more than $100,000 for their personal gains in flight tickets, golf outings, pubs, and hair salons.

What could have been a simple conversation dealt comfortably between KFA and Guus Hiddink turned into a mass media explosion that shook the entire Korean football industry. Kim has since left the organization for the chaos exposed to the media and fans have had enough of the misery caused within Korean football.

Endless corruption and poor management from KFA continues to negatively affect the national team, and as the 2018 WC draws near, there is no time for any more disruption. KFA needs to straighten its relationship with Guus Hiddink and put an end to more media leaks on Guus Hiddink. In addition to his offer to help, the Dutchman asserted in the press conference that something needs to be done to improve the current national team. In response to the offer, KFA needs to approach this in a professional matter by either clearly stating ‘no’ if it thinks he would deter Shin’s work in the team or ‘yes’ and create a position that best fits his contribution. This is the process KFA needs to make quickly and wisely. On top of these legal issues, it has been a busy end of year in the KFA office and we cannot allow any of the KFA corruption to slow down the national team’s rebuilding process.


The Stielike Era Ends – Takeaways from Uli Stielike’s failure

It was a matter of when. The first defeat against Qatar in 32 years finally triggered the sacking and the German was dismissed from Korean football this past June. The 3:2 loss in Doha meant Korea conceded more than 2 goals in 3 games and, for the first time, lost 3 games in the final qualification round and failed to win a single away game. Wins were unconvincing, draws were frustrating, losses were humiliating; Uli Stielike ’s KNT (Korea National Team) was far below expectations on the pitch. Off the pitch, he spoke of controversial claims that exacerbated his relationships with players, coaching staff, fans, the KFA (Korea Football Association), and even the media. After 33 months in charge, more than any previous KNT manager, his contract was terminated. Yet Korean football fans’ anger and skepticism has grown bigger than ever before. Demonstrations against KFA resulted in personnel change in the administration office. And today, the KFA and the KNT sit under immense pressure from the critics. Despite qualifying for the 2018 Russia World Cup, too many fans have lost their trust in the team to perform in Russia. After poor preparation that led to shocking results in the 2014 Brazil WC, the KFA went ahead wasting another 4 years of time. Here, we reveal what to take away from Uli Stielike’s failure.

There were questions as to if he was ever competent for the position. His failure with the KNT makes sense after all, given his mediocre coaching career: short spells in Switzerland, Spain, and Ivory Coast. His teams remained fruitless and tedious. He was far from winning trophies or playing attractive football. His coaching capabilities certainly weren’t the reason why he was hired. What did Lee Yong Soo, then the Technical Director of KFA, see in the German coach that gave him the final nod? It was his time spent with the golden generation of German players that won the 2014 Brazil WC. In the early 2000’s when German national team faced its own dark age, Stielike worked with different youth teams for six years and oversaw young German players that went on to impress in the WC a decade later. For this specific reason, Lee Yong Soo chose Stielike and expected him to not just take Korea to Russia but to develop a team that could leave behind a legacy in Korean football. It made absolutely no sense. Who hires a mediocre coach to lead the national team and ask to develop the youth system? This was the start of mass chaos.

The KNT cruised through the 2nd round of qualification scoring 27 goals, winning all 8 games, and keeping all 8 clean sheets. But the quality of play against the very weak sides – Kuwait, Laos, Myanmar, and Lebanon – was seriously concerning. Seeing every game as a build up to Russia WC 2018, the KNT was expected to put pieces together and outperform these teams. But the German and his men never managed to reach that point. Players seemed disconnected, they looked as though they were playing together for the first time. Meaningless possession around the back served no purpose and KNT relied heavily on set pieces to win games.

For strange and frustrating reasons, poor performance against the weak sides never caught the full attention of KFA and KNT coaching staff. The very first punch on the face was facing the mighty Spain that ended in a thumping 6:1 defeat. Moving on to the final round of qualification, Korea was not ready to take on teams who were prepared to penalize Korea’s innumerable weak spots and mistakes. Opponents threatened each game and playing in the WC in Russia was in serious doubt. Defensive issues lingered on. Players were playing out of position. No sign of team spirit or color or unity was visible from the Stielike team. Then there was the outrageous ‘Soria incident’, complaining that the loss in Iran with zero shots attempted was due to lack of players like Sebastian Soria, an Uruguayan forward playing for Al-Rayyan, and ultimately blamed Korea’s youth system, saying it was fundamentally weak. This caused an uproar in the media and fans reacted immediately. He also no longer had control over the dressing room. Watching long videos of John Cryuff during tactical sessions, players no longer had faith in their coach. As a ‘video analyst’ Cha Du-Ri joined in, but he was really invited to reconnect the dressing room to the manager. Sadly, the damage was too large to rebuild the bridge. From disappointing results to irresponsible player management, Uli Stielike drove KNT through one of the worst times in Korean football history.

Simply put, the head coach position is for a candidate with the strongest credentials with proven qualities of coaching. He must be a man on a mission to produce the results. It was never a position to worry about a nation’s football development and it will never will be. When Stielike needed to figure a way out of the current problems on the pitch, he was busy traveling around Korea giving his opinions on the youth system. It is quite a disappointment that KFA took four years to understand that the head coach position is for a candidate with successful experience and competent coaching capabilities. Carlos Queiroz of Iran football is a great example. First off, Queiroz was already a recognized coach, lauded by top managers around the world, including his former boss, Sir Alex Ferguson. He also had the character to fight against the Iran Football Federation. He was a man who did not allow anything to hinder his team from achieving success. Iran, ranked highest amongst Asian teams according to FIFA, has constructed a golden generation of their own by building the team around talented half-Iranese in Europe and successfully qualified for the Russia WC with great potential as a dark horse. Now there’s a strong belief in Iran football that Iran will remain strong even if Queiroz leaves in near future. This is the legacy that a head coach should leave behind, stimulating progress even after a leader steps down, this not only creates leadership continuity, but also growth continuity in the system. Fans never wanted Stielike to leave a legacy on strong youth system reformation.

In chaos and trepidation, coach Shin Tae Yong stepped in and was asked to revive the team and scrap a ticket to the WC. Since the summer of 2010, Korea has pointlessly appointed Korean managers, throwing them into a pit and asking them to find a way out. Players and coaches alike are valuable assets of Korean football. The KFA must avoid using Korean coaches in a panic. And most importantly, it cannot hire coaches like Stielieve ever again. Hiring he head coach should never be done on a short-term basis. It needs to learn from the JFA (Japan Football Association) when selecting a manager. It first filters out 3 to 4 coaches who best fit into their requirements. Then they take three to four years to build enough rapport with each of the nominees to minimize the possibility of a failure. Can KFA learn from the neighboring nation? Coach Shin Tae-yong has been impressive so far, but we cannot have another talented coach like Hong Myung Bo give up on a coaching career.

It takes me back to the unsavory ‘toffees incident’ on return home from Brazil in 2014. Uli Stielike was appointed as the next manager to lead the change in Korean football. ‘TIME FOR CHANGE’ KFA and Stielike shouted, but three fruitless years report to us that there was no change, but a greater setback, deteriorating even further behind. Hiring Stielike was a complete mistake. Even when he was on board, problems were never dealt in right manners, timing to bring in a new manager was missed, and KNT was very poorly managed. This is what happens when you don’t have a plan, a road map, for your team and what’s worse when you don’t bring in the right personnel.

Let’s finish with what Uli Stielike thought about his failure in Korea. Speaking to Dong-A Daily News, Stielike said Korean football’s biggest problem is that the KFA has no clear plan for the future and added that the organization only suffers when faced with unexpected difficulties because of poor leadership and management. Elaborating on the lack of goals and vision, he said there is no long-term plan, instead the picture KFA has contains only the next 2 games or the next 2 months. This is the kind of environment the KFA is creating for their national team coaching staff. Germany changed 3 managers in 20 years when Korea changed 3 managers in just 4 years. Uli Stielike’s departure this June remains as a reminder that KFA are laying their own grounds for failure.


On July 14, Everton FC became the first Premier League club to play a
game in Tanzania. Everton’s less than 48-hour stay in Dar es Salaam
proved to be too short for fans from all over Africa who came to fill
up 60,000 seats at the National Stadium, but the impact it had on East
African football was surreal. Just by having a Premier League side in
the country, we can see the excitement and potential growth East
African football can reach.

Ronald Koeman spoke about his team’s visit to East Africa and answered
“not all about football”. It’s true, a preseason tour for an European
football club means more than team bonding or raising physical levels.
Everton’s preseason in Tanzania was arranged as part of the new
partnership with a betting company in Kenya, SportPesa. The club
record shirt sponsorship deal means SportPesa will feature on the
front of Everton’s playing kit for 5 years. In appreciation for this
partnership, SportPesa organized an inaugural Super Cup in June to
decide who would get the opportunity to play against the Toffees. The
tournament included top four teams from each of the leagues in Kenya
and Tanzania and Kenya’s most successful club, Gor Mahia FC, came out
as eventual winner. Popularly known as the K’Ogalo, Gor Mahia
celebrates 15 league titles to their name. What an opportunity this
was for the Kenyan side to go head to head against an English Premier
League club. The result was only 2:1 to Everton, but the K’Ogalo had
many reasons to be proud of their performance according to Everton’s
manager. While most news headlines were highlighting Wayne Rooney’s
30-yard strike, Koeman was full of praise for Gor Mahia’s high
intensity physical play.

Off the pitch, Everton players held coaching clinics in Uhuru Primary
School to inspire next generation of Tanzanian footballers. A couple
of players also spent a day with Albino United, a football team made
up of people with albinism. Albinism is a congenital disorder that
comes with complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair,
and eyes. In Tanzania, many albinos, young as 6-months old, are being
attacked and murdered based on traditional superstitions. Many believe
that albinos are ghosts who bring bad luck and their body parts are
used in witchcraft for ritual purposes. We hope that Everton’s
campaign to raise awareness on the attacks against these people will
bring positive change to this ongoing tragedy in the country.

With all this in mind, East African football can realize how much of a
big influence investment in football can have. In recent years,
nations like Thailand, Vietnam, and China have greatly benefited from
European clubs’ preseason tours. Ambitious companies sponsoring
football clubs have witnessed the pervasiveness of the footballing
network. Today Chinese teams receive incredible financial support and
the Thai league is also growing, reporting bigger financial support
than that of Korea’s K-League. Although these countries’ national
teams may still be miles behind to qualify for the World Cup, they are
bound to initiate more football investment for further development in
youth football and the footballing culture. Football administrations
in these countries have never been busier. East African nations –
Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Uganda – have struggled to make the
global football scene, but Everton’s short visit showed us that
football is growing. SportPesa has been a significant investor in the
communities in Africa. Since the firm’s pledge to change communities
in Africa, it has been investing money into grassroots and
professional sports including football, rugby, and boxing. While
holding the title sponsorship for the Kenya Premier League, it remains
main partners with three teams in the league. Recently launched in
Tanzanian football, it continues to believe in the power of sports
investment. We are to celebrate the expansion SportPesa endeavored, if
other companies begin to join in supporting football development for
the better of African communities, the football system will only

It would be wrong to have our hopes to be the predictions of the
future, but SportPesa’s visionary expansion in football industry
demonstrate the great potential for East African football.

The Fate of Football Managers in Korea


Yes, dismissing Claudio Ranieri was completely disgraceful, yet it was the reality of modern football. English football especially has always been about producing short-term results and some wonder if the recent increase in wealth in the Premier League has given clubs the luxury to start replacing managers in short cycles. But it’s not just the EPL managers who face the fate of losing their jobs. The problem is just as severe in the Korean League where money isn’t as bountiful as the Premier League.

The Korean League, simply referred to as the “K-League”, is divided into two professional leagues: Classic and Challenge. For the 2017 season, K-League Classic saw four teams out of twelve replace their managers. Challenge, on the other hand, suffered even greater turnovers: two teams from last season completely withdrew from the league (Goyang and Chungju), six teams replaced their managers, and two brand new teams entered the league (Ansan and Asan). Only Suwon FC and Gyungnam, out of the ten teams in Challenge, kept the manager from the previous season. More than half of all the teams in both leagues (12 out of 22 teams) started the new season with a new manager. Sadly, the numbers get worse if we include managers replaced in-season.

system comparison

Why is it that teams are replacing managers so quickly? Is it the forthcoming system pressuring teams to perform? Is it the relationship between the manager and club owners? Is it the pressure from the fast-growing and cash-strapped leagues in China and Middle East? Whatever the reasons may be, we will never get the full picture, but by examining how club administrators work with managers in the Korean League compare to those in the Japanese League, we get a general idea of the existing problems in the K-League.

Seoul E-Land of Challenge for instance closed the contract with Martin Rennie and his coaching staff mid-season in 2016. Rennie was pressured to promote the team into Classic in his first year in charge of a brand new team. And for failing to promote the team into Classic, he was asked to leave only after 18 months in office. Martin Rennie was an exciting recruit to the league, having plenty of experience in the MLS with Vancouver Whitecaps. He was tipped to bring a unique Western footballing influence into Korean football. If only he had more time to adjust to the Korean league and assess his team’s potential promotion to Classic, he may have truly seen his work bear fruit. 

KunHa Park replaced Rennie mid-season. Seoul E-Land’s results for that second half of the season improved with Park in charge. The team won 11 games, drew 8, and only lost 4. K-League Challenge doesn’t have relegation yet, but Park had successfully turned the table around for a struggling E-Land side. Everyone expected coach Park to lead the team for the new season, but he was dismissed at the end of that season. The club’s statements for his dismissal was simply “to start fresh with the new club executives.” Talk about an outrageous comment. Poor decisions from the club continue to hinder the club. Seoul E-Land is currently (5/29/2017) sitting 9th out of 10 teams with just two wins in 13 games. Now leading the team is a coach from the U-League (University-League), a first-timer to the professional league. We do not know for sure how secure his job is, but the club has grandiose plans – its website lists as one its goals to become Asian club champions by 2020 (win the Asian Champions League). 

What can the K-League sides learn from this Japanese team? Since 2010 for seven straight seasons, Shonan Bellmare had gone up and down in the first and second division in the J-League. The team only won 7 in 34 games and was comfortably relegated to the second division in 2016. Despite its inconsistent performance in the J1 League, Cho Kwi-jae continues his management since 2012. Experiencing two promotions and two relegations during his regime, he could have easily been sacked by the standards set in modern football, but the club, acknowledging his leadership qualities, gives him full assurance that he’ll be given time to build his team. Shonan Bellmare is sitting third place out of total 22 teams in the second division, ready to be promoted again and challenge the first division.

Sir Alex Ferguson says the support from the club administration played a significant role in the development of a football club. In his book, Leading, he describes the support he got from the club owners and executives as a ‘privilege’ that a leader needs and must have. The fact that he was free from an urgent pressure to produce immediate success enabled him to concentrate on building the basis for the long-term generational success of Ferguson’s teams.

This is the culture K-League needs to inherit – developing a working relationship between the club administrators and coaching staff, together setting realistic goals, together taking time to move up the ladder one step at a time. And as Korean football system experiences more change in the upcoming years, teams must live up to the challenge of strengthening the cooperative relations between the club administrators and the coaching staff. 

(살짝) 늦은 2018년 월드컵 예선 중간정검

지난 20149월 속상하고 창피했던 2014 월드컵의 끝으로 대한민국 축구협회는 울리 슈틸리케 감독을 부임하며 2018 월드컵 준비를 시작했다. 201410월 천안에서 열린 파라과이 전을 시작해 2015 1AFC Asian Cup 준우승으로 팬들에게 한국축구에 대한 기대치를 높였다. 하지만 2016년 마지막 경기를 치룬 대한민국 축구는 과연 긍정적인가? 슈틸리케호는 과연 러시아에 갈 수 있을까? 앞으로 남아있는 최종예선들은 어떻게 준비해야 하는가

‘살짝’ 늦은 중간정검이지만 2016 경기들을 모두 마친 이 상황에서 한국축구에 불만을 표현하려한다.

슈틸리케의 35






4 2 0 2 50%


20 16 3 1



11 8 1 2


TOTAL 35 24 4 5


표만 보고 잘했다고 생각하셨다면 당신은 이미 속으신 겁니다.

35경기에서 한국보다 객관적 전력이나 주관적 평가가 떨어지는 팀들에 경기를 빼면 15GP 8W 2D 5L. 15 전속에는 스201611101657438875644a_4페인, 체코, 파라과이, 코스타리카, 이란 (2), 사우디아라비아, 호주 (2), 우즈베키스탄 (3), 일본, 카타르, 캐나다가 포함되어있다. 53.3% 승률에 불과하다. 아시아권으로 더 좁히면 10GP 5W 2D 3L = 50% 승률은 더 끔찍하다.

솔직히 누가 부임했었더라도 이정도는 가능했을 것이다.

이렇게 과거와 달라진 점이 없어서 비난과 비판이 많을 수밖에 없다. 뿐만 아니라 이긴 경기도 경기내용이 영 만족스럽지 않아 팬들은 걱정할 수밖에 없다. 다음 예선 경기는 내년 3월인 만큼 지난 2년을 돌이켜보며 문제점을 제대로 파악하고 고쳐나가야한다. 아니면 월드컵을 TV로 시청하거나 다시한번 엿사탕세례를 받을 것이 분명하다.

하여, 문제점들은 과연 무엇인가?

첫째, 문제파악을 제대로 못하고있는게 문제다! 감독도 그렇고 분석관이나 미디어나 축구협회나 한국축구를 위해 연구하고 분석하는 이들은 한국축구가 제대로된 방향으로 발전할 수 있도록 돕자는데 엉뚱한데에 문제를 두고 있다. 현재 성적을 미디어는 이렇게 표현하고 있다. ‘해외파로 구성된 국가대표팀은 경험이 부족하다.’ 30대선수가 없으니 노련미가 부족하다고 경험의 힘이 필요하다고 한다. 그리고 슈틸리케가 중국전 시리아전을 대비해 23명이 아닌 20명 엔트리를 뽑았다고 난리법석이다. 석현준의 클럽적응을 위한 감독의 배려가 시리아전의 0:0 무승부로 이어졌다고 한다. 미디어는 이렇게 예쁘게 글쓰느라 엉뚱한데에 초점을 두고 있다. 한편 감독은 2차예선 무실점 전승에 자부심을갔는 태도가 너무 싫다. 경기내용에 변화가 없는거보니 대표팀이나 협회나 쓸데없는 기록의 고집을 부리는것같다.

고집이 다음 문제다. 한국축구에 비판과 비난은 경기 내용으로부터 시작된다.문제들은 경기장안에 있다고 볼 수 있다. 감독을 비판할 수밖에 없는 이유다. 맨유팬들이 판할감독에 향한 불만의 외침처럼 한국축구팬들도 냉정해져야한다. 플레이의 한국만에 컬러가 없다. 늘 그랬듯이 한국은 4-2-3-1 시스템으로 점유율 축구를 하면서 윙플레이의 의존하고 있다. 이기든 지든 꾸준히 이 전술을 유지해오고있고 선수들의 포지션 선정도 잘못되고 있다. 지동원이나 손흥민은 골넣을 자리에 있어야되는데 윙에서 클로스를 올리고있고 K리그 최고의 넘버10 김보경은 윙포드에 뛰고있고, 김신욱이 있는데 무의미하게 백에서 패스를 하고있고, 이정엽이 있는데 롱볼을 하고 있고, 이재성이 뛰고 있으면 탄탄한 빌드업 플레이를 해줄 수 있는 포워드는커녕 지동원이 원톱을 하고 있다. 감독의 선수조합은 수준 이하다. 엉뚱한 선수기용에 안어울리는 전술 옷을 입히고 있다. 수비는 더 가관이다. 슈틸리케 감독은 매경기 포백이다르다. 안정감이 없고 수비 형태가 매경기 다르게 흩어지고 있다. ‘공격이 좋으면 골을 넣지만 수비가 안되면 이길 수 없다.’ 다 아는 명언 아닌가?

중국전을 살펴보자. 주전으로 오재석이 LB 그리고 장현수는 다시 RB. 선수들이 자기위치에서 뛰고있지 않으니 실수는 더 있을 수 밖에 없다. 그러니 20분 남기고 개개인의 실수로 두골을 허용했다. 작년에 미대한민국 vs 미얀마경기를 분석한적이있다. 같은 문제점이 일년이 지나도 아직도 보이고 있다. 분석관들은 도대체 뭘하고있는건지다시 첫 번째 문제로 돌아가게된다.

시리아전에서 팬들은 침대축구 핑계를 대고 중요한 문제점을 파악하지 못하였다. 한국은 6535 점유율으로 고작 8번에 슈팅 그리고 2번의 유효슈팅밖에없었다. 침대축구가 답답해도 먼저 우리나라의 문제점들을 인정해야 한다. 시리아는 0:0스코어를 버텼고 심지어 유효슈팅은 한국의 두배였다. 시리아의 전술은 성곡적이었고 한국의 전술은 실망적이었다.

우즈벡경기에서도 같은 문제점들이 계속보인다. 다른 포백, 개개인의 실수, 선수기용문제, 안어울리는 전술, 무의미한 점유율쉽게 이길수있는 경기를 힘겹게 2:1 승리. 이쯤에서 내가 존경하고 뛰어난 분석을 하시는 STV FC의 문홍 감독님을 소개하고싶다. 우즈벡전을 1,2 부로 분석해주시고 한국의 필요한 시스템도 소개한다. 이 경기의 문제점들이지만 늘 보여주는 한국축구의 문제점들이라는걸 기억하시면서 보시길 바란다.

대한민국 vs 우즈백전 분석 1부

        대한민국 vs 우즈벡전 분석 2부

한국은 과연 러시아에 갈수있을까?

지금까지 말한 문제점들이 고쳐지지않은 이상 난 바라지도 않는다. 제발 월드컵 예선 탈락에 놀라지 말자. 허나 수비문제, 선수기용, 어울리는 전술로 먼저 변화가 생긴다면 아직 준비할시간은 있다. 한국축구가 과정속에 있다고 눈감아주지 말자. 과정속에는 결과도 함께 해야한다.

정보 출처: Best Eleven October 2016 Edition

October 18, 2016

I needed to find something other than reading to entertain myself here at the military hospital. So I decided, why not give an update on me.
Fall is finally here in Korea. It was here for a while actually; I’m just glad that summer is gone. It was probably the worst summer because of the heat and the work I was forced to perform. I’ve been jokingly describing my past summer ‘ traumatic’ to my acquaintances in Korea. So meeting cool, windy fall after a treacherous summer couldn’t be any better.
It pains me to complain about my knee, but here I go again. I couldn’t keep up with all the daily tasks in the army. After going in and out of various hospitals ever since I enrolled in the army, I was finally put onto hospital bed for some rest. The base gave me one month to sort my situation. Not long for a problem I had for more than two years, but I really needed this break. My knee was just not keeping up. It came to a point where I couldn’t even walk, but liquid forming in my knee made my walking very uncomfortable. It almost felt like I forgot to walk again. It was that awkward with the swelling. My past few months have been frustrating because of this. I thought I would never adjust to the army life as long as my pain was there to hinder me from doing things that all my comrades were doing. I couldn’t understand why I was in the army when I really needed time to sit down on a treatment to follow for my knee to return to ‘normal’. Sad reality is that I can’t control what I want to do here.
For now, I’m trying to stay positive by focusing on what I can control. That’s getting rest and treatments the hospital has for me, stretching and strengthening my legs, and staying calm in His word. Also reading Malcom Gladwell’s books to get my mind off of my knee.
One thing I’m realizing though is that there are guys here who are in similar situations. Guys who are seriously hurt, probably worse than I am, but stuck in the army with their current health. Some are on crutches, having to move around in a wheel chair. Some can’t even rehab properly because the joints stiffened after a long period of isolation. I should be thankful, I thought, for being able to walk and exercise to some extent to prevent from getting worse. Just this past month, I was dejected from what I was going through, but here I am lighting up, thanking God for the small things. Praise God.
What’s ahead still worries me, but I don’t think it’s my job to think about that. It’s tough time for me, but I guess you need these disappointments in your life to spur you on to do greater things later on in life.
How about that good old rivalry game between Manchester United and Liverpool. It could have been better if United come away with three points, but enjoyed watching Ander Herrera play. My eyes were on him the whole game. He was a beast that night. The game kicked off at 4 am in Korea which meant I couldn’t watch it LIVE. Thanks for not allowing internet during the day, I got to watch the replay at noon with no one knowing the score! I watched the game like it was LIVE.

When your best players are not your best players

“Korea, only nation in Asia, to become the sixth nation to advance to the World Cup for the 8th consecutive time”

The media is all about this record when no one, but few, dares to know. There’s really nothing valuable about this record when the team’s performance is hardly convincing.

NISI20160814_0012047959_web.jpgMore and more players picked for the national team are not playing for their respective club teams. Being called up for the national team means the squad has to prepare for the game in a short period of time. However when you have players who are short of game experience from lack of regular football, preparation is slowed down. Anyone who’s been a player will know how much not being able to play slows you down not only physically, but also mentally. The sad reality is that it’s also impossible to obtain this physical and mental aspect of the game through just hard training. A player NEEDS to get in the actual game. Coaches, speaking to the media, will confirm they will only pick players who are first-team members of their respective clubs, but they’re still partial to players who play in Europe – even if they’re struggling to break into the first team at their club. It tells you something about Korean football. The national team, for some reason, is forced to rely on these foreign-based players and has a small pool of players to pick from the domestic K-League. There’s a real dearth of quality players from Korean domestic football, which is the result of a poor coaching system and an ineffective league system, leading to less opportunity for all age groups and genders.

Joo-ho Park struggling at Dortmund

An answer to the question of why a player isn’t getting playing time is rather simple. He’s not good enough. What’s really hard to answer, though, is why Korean players, as a bigger mass, struggle with this issue. Coach Shin Tae Yong, who led the Olympic team to Rio, is very much concerned with this issue. He describes current Korean players as all around too robotic and that they are missing something special in their style of play. Because of this undistinguished style, coaches are rather forced to prefer the veterans. It’s time to correct this stereotyped idea that age is stopping young players from playing. They are only going to get their experience over the veterans when they are set apart from the norm. Marcus Rashford of Manchester United didn’t make his surprise Premier League debut against Arsenal last season because he was young. He was given the chance because he had the abilities which in turn made his potential that much great. That’s the world we live in, asking for striking expertise and competence.

Coach Shin Tae Yong at Rio Olympics

So the root of this problem is planted in Korea’s youth coaching system. How can coaches assist in developing a set of definite qualities into young players? Here, coach Shin stresses the importance of how coaches must learn how to help young players mature and sharpen their innate talents. There’s obviously a ton that goes into youth coaching, but coach Shin says, the primary focus should be on maturing their raw talents. Korean coaches are too focused, or rather, only focused on settling the fundamentals and executing tactics. That’s why Korean coaches prefer the veteran over the rookie. There’s not that much to compare besides the former having more experience. We need to criticize this ‘coach-centered’ coaching. And it just makes coaching that much harder. While perfecting the fundamentals and teaching them how to execute the team’s tactics, coaches are challenged to discover and implement creativeness to players’ natural talents. This is the direction of coaching Korea needs to take, differentiating players with their own unique abilities.

U-19 coach Ahn Ik-Soo

The U-19 coach, Ahn Ik-Soo, approaches the problem of players in late teens and early twenties not getting regular football at a different perspective. He points to the entire league system. No matter how talented you are at age 19 or 20, it’s true that you are more likely to spend more time watching the game than actually playing. But, let’s go back to Marcus Rashford’s example. Before Rashford broke into the first team, he didn’t just train with the first team. He had plenty of opportunities to keep playing for the reserves in the U-21 league, which we know already, is separate from the Championship, the second division. With this subdivided league system in Europe, young players are able to maintain and raise their real game experience and even work on closing down the gap between the regular starters. That’s exactly what Korean football is missing – a subdivided league system. The league system is shallow and does not account for the young players and even the women’s teams. Many players in early twenties are just entering the professional K-League, playing for their universities, or playing in the lower divisions of K-League. In each respective situation, young players simply don’t play because they are rookies. They don’t have an alternate solution for gaining game experience. Like European football, the KFA must develop better young players by reshaping the leagues under K-League and creating more opportunities for each age group and women’s teams to participate in.

Amazingly enough, the KFA has been working on a lofty goal of expanding Korean football league. The table below shows the current league system:

Division Level
K-League (Classic) Pro
K-League (Challenge) Pro
N-League (National) Semi-Pro
K3-League Amateur

KFA, partnered with Korean Olympic Committee, is mapping out a plan to subdivide the entire league system into seven different leagues.

Division Level
K1-League (Classic) Pro
K2-League (Challenge) Pro
K3-League (Advanced) Semi-Pro
K4-League (Basic) Semi-Pro
K5-League (National Best) Amateur
K6-League (18 District Leagues) Amateur
K7-League (142 Regional Leagues) Amateur

emblem_of_korea_football_association-svgStarting next year, K7-League’s 142 regional leagues consisting of 852 teams will begin their establishment. The government is supporting about $2.6 million, so each league will be allocated with about $18,000 to furnish necessary facilities and organize management for the league opening. Going with the new system, the KFA announced earlier this month that all divisions will now be introduced to the promotion and relegation battle just like the European league system. Now, any team from any league can move up and down in the system. Currently this system is only applied to two pro leagues – Classic and Challenge.

In all respects, this is exciting news to hear. The KFA is surely making a great first step in raising competition and widening the pool of players to pick for the national team by merging all the leagues and implementing the promotion/ relegation battle for both professionals and amateurs. This is also a great way to invite more amateurs to play, especially to those who couldn’t play up to the standard of pro or given up because of conditions of football environment in Korea. They can start enjoying football again and who knows, we might just see a Korean Jamie Vardy some day. It’s an open game to all.

It’s time for all of us to accept the current situation with Korean football and embrace the fact that Korean football has been poor in producing quality players which in return, worsened the competition in the national team. Coach Shin associates this poor line of production players with weak coaching system and asked for a shift from ‘coach-centered’ coaching to ‘player-centered’ coaching. On top of this problem, this overall problem of players lacking regular football is situated far more deeply than just the national team. Coaches of men’s U-23, men’s U-19, National Women’s team, women’s U-20 are all facing dilemmas with players lacking real game experience. The best players of Korea are coming to play for their country, but they are struggling to play regularly for their club teams. There’s more than just substandard coaching, Korea doesn’t acquire a robust environment for both genders of young players to simply play at their level. However, we’ve seen reports made by the KFA that changes ARE happening. Leagues are merging. Even though there’s still long ways to go to provide more opportunities for young players and even the women’s teams, these long-term changes on youth coaching and overall football environment should have gradual effects on Korean football in all levels and one day bring better performance from the national team.

Thoughts from my Zanzibar Trip


The trip was more than just exploring the island’s beauty and its unique culture as a Tanzanian archipelago. In fact, I flew over to intentionally interact with the people of Zanzibar, more specifically, the lovers of the beautiful game.

This trip was my second time in Zanzibar. My first trip was an ordinary family trip in which I did not have any specific expectations. The island, however, left me with an extraordinary impression in my mind’s eye of so many people in love with football. It was then that I knew I needed to come again with a different purpose.

Three and a half years later, I was given an opportunity to coach five middle schools and a women’s team. It was a great opportunity for me to go again, interact with the Zanzibaris, and share the passion for the game.

The reality of coaching was way beyond my expectations and I was challenged each day with a series of hurdles: the field condition, weather conditions, not enough balls, too many players, and worst of all, COMMUNICATION. It was tough for both players and me with my poor Swahili. The translator was not as helpful and I was very limited in what I wanted to say so it was discouraging not being able to give more helpful advice and share how football impacted my life. It was not easy trying to adjust and improvise my way out of the day, everyday.

Football is very popular in Zanzibar. The island upholds an unique football culture of its own. Any flat landscape is a field to any age group or gender. You will not go a day without seeing people playing football. Football jerseys of nearly any club in Europe are found in almost any store you run into. During the weekends in local pubs, you will witness the supporters take part in rituals before, during and after a match to support their favorite teams. All these things prove that football occupies an unique culture in the island. Amidst the issues of poverty, diseases, corruption, warfare, and misgovernment, football seems to provide a way of life and hope not just in Zanzibar, but all over Africa. Perhaps, this is why football is called the beautiful game and challenged me to continue to question the concept of football ministry. How can these people learn about the gospel through this beloved sport?



I recently read a short booklet previewing a forthcoming book “On Becoming Generative: An Introduction to Culture Care”. Fujimura, a contemporary artist,  introduces an interesting theory of Culture Care. He writes,

“Culture Care restores beauty as a seed of invigoration into the ecosystem of culture. Such soul care is generative: a well-nurtured culture becomes an environment in which people and creativity thrive.”

The word ‘generative’ refers to something that is bearing fruit or originating new life. As Fujimura would say, when we are generative, we draw on creativity to bring into being something fresh and life-giving. To me, ‘Culture Care’ sounds more like the gospel, the stewardship of His creation, or the journey to His Kingdom — it’s a generative approach to culture that brings resourcefulness, patience, and creativity into a culture bereft of His fruits. During my stay in Zanzibar, I saw a new vision to gather a community of people committed to generative living that identifies and models the conditions that best contribute to a good life and a thriving culture. Specifically, I saw a need for developing coaches in East Africa through my experiences in Zanzibar and as the African countries represented in the World Cup are more from the West and Northern African regions. I ask the Lord for His guidance, but it would be my dream to establish an organization focused in forming quality African coaches in East Africa. Hopefully, the outcome will see the nations develop a healthy football culture and ultimately lead to World Cup qualification.

Just as we are increasingly finding ways to take care of our environment for future generations, I hope we take importance notice in caring our culture as well so future generations can thrive. Culture and gospel go hand in hand in ministry.


Victor Wanyama’s rise is an opportunity for Kenyan football


I would like to introduce a player on the rise for Southampton FC. Underrated and undervalued by many, Victor Wanyama from Kenya has been an integral figure for the Saints since he joined in the summer of 2013.

He’s a typical #5: dictating play, setting the tempo, taking the ball off the backline to start the attacks, and shielding the back four. From his 6ft 2in massive body comes a powerful work rate and defensive asset. He’s a roaming destroyer, capable of playing box-to-box trying to win back possession. He’s also a composed play dictator, linking defense and attack. It’s no surprise he’s being targeted by numerous top clubs in Europe and Southampton is desperately trying to keep him.

In all, Kenya produced one of the best #5’s in the modern football.

It was the summer of 1991 when Wanyama was born in Nairobi. He spent his early teenage years playing for prestigious youth academy clubs, Nairobi City Stars and AFC Leopards. At age 16, he moved to Sweden for Helsingborgs I.F., where he joined his talented brother McDonald Mariga. That year, he made a successful first-team international debut against Nigeria and continued to make a positive impact for the Kenya national team. But, he struggled to settle in Sweden. The young teenager couldn’t adjust to the new environment and it was clearly affecting his performance on the pitch. Although his time in Sweden was a failure, he was already on the move for a next challenge with Beerschot in Belgium. Thriving for both for club and country, Wanyama began to establish himself as a rising youngster which made it possible for him to move to Celtic in Scotland. He was a regular member of the team that won two Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Cup in his first two years at Celtic. The turning point in his career came when he and his teammates achieved the famous victory over the mighty Barcelona during the 2012 Champions League group stage. Listen to what the pundits had to say about Wanyama’s performance.

Wanyama ended the campaign as the 2013 Clydesdale Bank Young Player of the Year and with a reputation as one of the most exciting young midfielders in Britain. He left to join the Saints that summer and the current Kenyan captain is in the spotlight this January transfer window.

There have been notable Kenyan players who moved to Europe, but no one has truly emulated Wanyama’s success at the top. A pioneer, he has undoubtedly opened up paths for more Kenyan players to move abroad early and exemplify his success. The question lies here: can Kenyan football take Wanyama’s rise as an opportunity to grow their football? The player is only 24 and he is still climbing. The Kenyan captain has already proved his nation that his hard work and dedication to his craft are two of the biggest impacts on Kenyan football. I hope this lifts the nation and takes its football to new levels. Oh, it would be my dream to see my beloved Kenya in the World Cup one day. Only time will tell. Until then, keep an eye on him if you’ve never seen him play in the EPL.



After God’s Own Heart

Since returning from the Thanksgiving break, I have been in awe of how God has been restoring my faith. Today the Holy Spirit has challenged me to gather all that I have experienced and express them with words in the midst of my final week of school.

It’s appropriate for me to start with how I was before.

“I know it in my head, but it’s not in my heart.”

If I were to describe my junior year, I would throw in words like ‘dreadful’, ‘gloomy’, ‘enduring’, ‘selfish’, and ‘grinding’.

I was going into my third season of soccer for Calvin College and I had set higher expectations and goals to achieve for myself. With all the work and commitment I had executed during the off-season, I was determined to having a ‘great’ year. Other things were going on in my life besides soccer, I began to take higher level courses in accounting and I took on 3 different part-time jobs. Also, I was also the treasurer for a business organization. On top of that, I had to make myself marketable for the best internship I could ever get to sugar coat my resume. A LOT was going on. TOO MUCH was on my plate. On my first day of school, I came back physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually DRAINED. On my first day.

When you have too much on your plate and you are trying to juggle all these things for your favor, you slowly realize that you are actually losing all that was on the plate. I became a very SELF-ORIENTED and COMPETETIVE person. I didn’t need God. Just in my personality, I had to work harder and show strong work ethic to prove people that I CAN juggle all these things. I had no room for God. I had no room for time alone and rest. I was onto something constantly with no break. Church was one of weekly tasks that was on my check list. There was no SABBATH in my life.

Senior year came around; I got rid of almost anything I could on my plate. No soccer. No internship. Just one job. Just enough classes. I wanted my last semester to be a time of reevaluation and restoration. I wanted SABBATH in my life. But… My spirituality was already lost in the ocean. I did not know what to do with my faith. The Bible was always so difficult to open and confusing to understand. Praying was never genuine. Sunday church service was just one of the things on the checklist. For the first time in my life, I didn’t want to go to church because of my lack of loyalty to God. It was more for God that I wanted to deviate from faith. God doesn’t need me and I don’t deserve to be called His child.

I still knew it in my head, but it never transferred into my heart. I knew I had to pray for my faith because I knew I had to be spiritually in tune with God before facing the huge transition post-graduation. But… I never felt it in my heart. The prayer didn’t seem like a prayer.

Days kept passing, school was just going, and life was pretty lonely… My stress level mounted as I kept thinking about the uncertainties in my near future. The symptoms that follow from worrying about uncertain future were NOT GREAT to handle with my mixed emotions.

For Thanksgiving break, I really wanted to be away from GR. Somewhere quiet. Somewhere I could just be alone and struggle with more thoughts… But I knew I was selling my car before then. It was going to be difficult to make a trip for myself.

At this time, my friend in Indiana insisted me to come to Indiana for the break. I never planned on going because I knew I wouldn’t have my car. But… due to my physical therapy for my knee, I had to delay my sale for one more month which made it possible to make the trip.

My time in Indiana was a blessing. *Through many many many deep, meaningful conversations I had with my friends, I was healed in many many many different ways.* I was able to shift my gear to ask what my true purpose in life was. God truly blessed me through the conversations. I saw a change in my life when I returned home.

First Sunday back in GR, the image of our ALMIGHTY God was shown clear to me. ‘The galaxies listened to Him, the stars, the mountains, and even the ocean listened to Him. God asked me and I said NO.’ To our GREAT God who’s beyond our imagination, I stood in front of Him in selfishness. This BROKE me into tears. Up until then, I was living that selfish life shunning my God away. I prayed that my tears would wash away my sins. Amazed. I truly felt His forgiveness. I have countlessly lifted my burdens in my prayer, but for the first time in my life, I truly truly felt my burdens be lifted to God. I finally began TRUSTING HIM.

Since then on, everything made sense. The prayer that didn’t seem like a prayer… God still listened and He provided a way for me turn my face to Him. God wanted me to keep the car for one more month and made sure I made that trip to Indiana. (And many more I wish I could share…) I started seeing God’s omnipresence. I’m still amazed at how He has always been so close to me all the time and every moment. He was protecting me, He was grieving when I made wrong decisions… He just wanted to spend time with me. It’s wonderful seeing God’s presence in your life. I’m walking down the same street. I’m going through my exact same schedule that I had before. I’m meeting the same people… but I start to notice little things that brings joy.

November and December of 2015 will be remembered as my rebirth in Christ. I continue to pray for His guidance because I’m a human being and I’ll fall again. But get this. My faith will not be based on how little I can sin but it will be how much I’ll get to know who God is and unveiling what He is doing in my life. I pray I’ll continue to find the WORD as I’m starting to find the WORD as my daily bread. The healing process begins now!

My last few weeks here in the states is going to be tough because of many goodbyes. I’m especially sad that I won’t be able to see particular people for a very long time. Also, I’m emotionally distracted at some of the ‘decisions’ I made recently, but deep inside of me, there is peace of mind. (A POWERFUL FEELING) I think it’s because I am fully trusting Him now. The work of God is real. I’m experiencing a Sovereign God.

Lastly, I THANK GOD so much for administering through prayers of so many people. Praying has been a difficult matter for me in college, but wow, I’ve witnessed the power of prayer. Also I THANK GOD for speaking through different people. I’m blessed to have them in my life.

The journey begins now! There is still brokenness everywhere in me, community, school, countries, etc… But,

Stewardship, Love, and Justice.

Calvin sends me with these three words as I head out into a bigger transition. IN ALL, TO GOD BE THE GLORY.

Number 6: 24-26 has never felt this STRONG before. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Amen.

I promise to stay accountable for my words. Keep me in touch!