Thoughts from my Zanzibar Trip

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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?

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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.

 

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Update!

It has been way too long since I wrote my last blog post on the ‘Transfer Market Mystery series.’ So… There’s a lot to share! Here’s a quick summary of what has been on my mind this semester.

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First, I would like to share briefly on Calvin Men’s soccer. It was 2011 last time Calvin was in the Final Four, eventually lost in the final. This is a huge moment for the team, players, coaches, and for the program.

“It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.” Henry Ford

It’s no miracle that they are in the Final Four. After crashing out in the second round against Ohio Wesleyan last year, the team was already on sight for next season. The amount of dedication the team put in to be where they are now is unbelievable. Through competition, there was teamwork. In free time, there was discipline.

I have several topics in mind to dive deeper into and I hope to unpack some of these big topics after I finish up school in next two weeks! 

  • Football league system in Korea and England

What’s the common denominator from the following players?

Jaime Vardy of Leicester, Chris Smalling of Manchester United, Charlie Austic of QPR, Gary Hooper of Norwich, and Rickie Lambert of West Brom

They are just a few of many players who came from non-league to the Premier League. There are more than 7000 teams of nearly 5300 clubs in the English men’s football league system (Wikipedia). The vast structure of the league really teaches the importance of developing amateur football leagues to intensify and improve the football culture. My plan is to compare and contrast with the football league system in Korea and stress the need for development in amateur football.

  • Abusive coaches

I always have a negative view of coaches in Korea for their abusive attitudes towards the players. Considering the Asian culture of respecting the senior coaches/players, I thought the negative behaviors from the older coaches/players were inevitable. My perspective changed after watching several documentaries on English football and reading up on the history of abusive coaches in the U.S. First, abusive coaches are everywhere. Second, there is a difference in abusive coaches and demanding coaches.

  • Tainting the beautiful game: Match fixing (Ethics in Sports)

While taking a class in business ethics, I have been challenged to apply some of the big concepts into the football world. FIFA scandal is still making headlines and mach fixing is whole another issue. Unethical behaviors from the football leaders/organizations should not be tolerated. Hope to touch on some of the big issues in the game.

Lastly, a couple of thoughts on the EPL and the Korea national team.

As an EPL fan, this season has been far the worst. The quality of the games are well under par. Inconsistent run of results from the top-tier teams have been frustrating as well. Nick Miller of ESPN thinks this brings more excitement to the league.

I’m really excited to see how Korean national team will progress through the qualifications. The team is cruising in current round 2 qualification for 2018 WC and Uli Stielike is working on picking the best of best players to represent Korea. At this moment, the forward position is worth eyeing on.

More to come from me next this month!

 

On the Road to the 2018 Russia World Cup

South Korea's German football coach Ulrich Stielike (C) speaks during a press conference to announce a South Korean squad for the AFC Asian Cup in Seoul on December 22, 2014. South Korea named a final 23-man squad for the AFC Asian Cup next month in Australia that is heavy with 17 players from overseas leagues. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE        (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

After the humiliating performances from the Korean team in the 2014 Brazil World Cup, there has been a growing concern over the future of Korean football. Indeed, there was an urgent need for a change.

Today I want to write about Korea’s preparation for the 2018 Russia World Cup as Korea has been displaying positive signs since Uli Stielike took over after the Brazil WC.

One aspect that I love about football is that it requires very important qualities of ‘strategic planning’ and ‘discipline’ when it comes down to achieving your goals and getting to the place you really want to be in. However, many football associations and organizations seem to become very impatient with the fact that the process takes time and support.

Korean football needed to react to their mistake and accept all forms of criticism as it was clear that its 4-year preparation for the 2014 World Cup was lacking in many areas. It’s easy and fair to criticize the manager and the players, but I was particularly angry at the KFA (Korea Football Association) who also needs to take responsibility in Korea’s poor run of results throughout the preparation for the Brazil’s WC.

KFA made a huge mistake of hiring someone who was never interested in taking the role. The manager KFA hired even spoke clearly after the appointment that he’ll step down after qualifying to the WC. Here’s a manager who was forced to the job and who’s ultimate goal is qualifying for the World Cup. The team underperformed in the qualifications and narrowly saved a spot in Brazil with goal difference. As promised, he stepped down and a young manager was appointed with not even a year left to the first kickoff in the group stage. Although the new manager had great motives to change things around, he simply had not enough time to fully develop his management style, execute his philosophy, and build his team.

As disappointing as the 2014 WC was, KFA responded well and Uli Stielike has so far done a great job of restructuring the Korean team. I am very much thrilled to see how his team will execute its ‘strategic plan’ in order to achieve its ultimate goal in 2018. I also hope the KFA won’t have to find another manager. Having a manager who can commit for four years would foster the team’s motivation, ‘discipline’, and team spirit.

Time for Change – FIFA

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Building football fields for kids in Africa to organizing the World Cup, FIFA stands on top as a football governing body. However, the recent unveil of corruption has tainted the image of FIFA and the sport. Currently, the ongoing investigation reveals corruption that is systemic and deep-rooted, dating two decades.

I’m writing this blog post to express anger because what FIFA has done over the years will now in some way impact the game we love. The leaders were put to their respective positions to be responsible to the world’s biggest game. Yet, they abused their power of trust to gain personal gains. The motto, “For the Game, For the World”, was nothing but mere words to them. Corrupting the game, FIFA is now put to public shame and must face all consequences.

FIFA at its weakest, this is the time we need to see new set of leaders and management in FIFA. The organization who “cares” to improve the beautiful game and impact the lives of every football fanatics in the world must have rightful leaders. With so much beauty surrounding the game, the governing organization is way too disgraceful.

Quite amazingly, Sepp Blatter still remains on top of FIFA despite innumerable controversies and constant corruption alerts. Refusing to take responsibility of the recent outbreak, he also claims he can’t monitor small things. As cliche as it may sound, he’s a very poor leader who’s blinded by power, fame, and money.

Rebuilding is not easy, but it simply cannot be done with Blatter in place. I want to end with a quote from David Gill whom I respect for his corporate management. “FIFA, being on the top of pyramid, should be a strong organization that leads development of football women, men, youth, and every different forms of football.”

Blatter is reelected as the FIFA President. There must be a revolution.