Tomorrow the surprising South Korea that beat Portugal and left Uruguay on the road will collide with Brazil. Sasha Shin, a former member of the Scouting area of the Korean Football Federation for ten years, talks to El Comercio and gives us details of the mystery behind her success.
—How valuable is it for Korea to have Portugal?
The truth is that everyone is happy, everyone celebrates. Now I’m on the plane, I was watching the game, but the truth is I didn’t expect us to beat Portugal, we were very lucky that the Uruguayan team didn’t score a goal against Ghana. Now it’s time for Brazil and all that remains is to prepare well.
—Despite Paulo Bento’s achievement of reaching the round of 16, will he continue in the next process?
What I heard from the Federation is that the result of the World Cup doesn’t matter: the Federation is going to change local coaches. Before the World Cup, we had many doubts about Bento, the coach of the national team, this is not going to change at all, even if we reach the fourth or semifinals. Lo Bento is positive, because when he started working with the national team there were changes, for example, we began to play the ball better than before, we learned to dominate the matches. That was what the Korea Football Federation wanted to change what we did wrong before. I’m happy with this, but let’s wait and see what will happen. But as I told you, in the future, the Federation is going to change this with all the Korean coaches.
—Are you assumed the role of leader in Korea?
Yeah right if. It could not be otherwise.
—What has been the key to this good moment in Korea?
All the players like Son Heung-Min, Lee Kang-in who plays in Mallorca, are the last players who are in Europe. There aren’t many players who grew up in Korea, I mean, this is proof of Korean football. In Korea, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the youth team or professional, it’s going to be more important to win the game. They won’t let you do a lot of dribbling, no single play, they’ll ask you to make a play as a team. Players like Son Heung-Min, Hee-chan Hwang, who is playing for England’s Wolverhampton Wanderers, are players who grew up in Europe.
What was the key to that change?
I was working in the Korean Federation in the lower part. In the last 10 years, the Federation brought the methodology of the inferiors of Germany and England. Right now, in Korea, we are using equipment with technology from both countries.
—What do you focus on to empower Korean players?
In Korea we do a lot of work with speed, coordination and from the age of 13, the coaches do physical work with the boys, for example, in the gym, running 5 to 10 km. But in recent days, the workers are not emphasizing because that is bad for the youth players, both in the gym and in running.
—How is soccer in Korea?
In Korea we can have five foreigners in each team. Most of them play in attacking position, that means the midfielders and defenders are Korean and there are no chances for the Korean forwards and wingers, because foreigners play. Therefore, the midfield and defensive players work very hard to grow strength and speed to mark foreign players. That is a problem with our football, because not so many opportunities for young people.
—What does the Korean soccer federation aspire to? What is your plan?
The Korean Federation always invites the best coaches from other countries or managers to grow and raise the level of managers like they have in Europe. Edwin van der Sar, who played for Manchester United, had a talk with the directors of the League. We intend to have the best.
—The 2002 World Cup in Korea Japan, was it a turning point for the soccer revolution in Korea?
That’s true, because after the World Cup, we changed a lot, like the rules of the League, we built many fields for the lower teams. After the World Cup, the World Cup players said that there is not much organization to grow and fight for important things. Likewise, Korean companies and the Korean Football Association gave more money to grow and build good fields; They put as a rule that all the teams that are participating in the Professional League, must have sub-12, sub-15 and sub-18.
—Did all this improve soccer in Korea?
I think so. I was a lower level player and I think we have to change the generation. The thinking of the coaches in inferiors are all the same. For them, what matters is the result, but if you go to Spain, the coaches don’t think about the result, they think about the growth of the player. I hope that the youth coaches change their thinking.
—Are the courts synthetic or natural grass?
For example, professional teams play in natural and train in natural. The under-18 and under-15 teams train in synthetic and play in natural in the game of the championship week. The sub-12 train in synthetic and play in synthetic.
Are Koreans soccer fans?
Here soccer is the biggest sport in our country and the second most important is baseball. When the World Cup is played, all the people go out to watch the game and applaud the players. A very sad thing is that many people are waiting for the World Cup, everyone supports the national team, but they have no interest in the League. That’s the problem.
—That is to say, they don’t follow the League much, but only the national team…
When we have the national team match in our country, people go, the whole stadium is full, but if you go to a First Division classic, only 50 percent or 60 percent is full, and if you go to the Second Division only 3 thousand people go. That is something that we have to change to raise our level of football.
—You work to be the best in Asia, is that the goal?
Yes of course.
—What qualities do you see in the exterior of the Korean soccer player to hire him?
Ten years ago, when scouts from Europe talked to me, the first thing they would say was if the player was famous in Korea, because they were waiting for some marketing player. For example, Park or Lee Young-pyo went to Tottenham, and the three Korean companies made a contract with the Manchester United and Tottenham team. So, with that money, they could already pay the annual salary for Park and Lee. At present, we expect something else, because the Koreans have a good attitude, technique, they are talented to play at the highest level in Europe like Son.
—What other things does South Korea have as a soccer system?
In Korea we don’t have a reserve team, we have the same system as the United States. After sub-18, the players can go professional, they go to the University first, they play there, their level rises and after two years, they will have the opportunity to go to the professional team. In the last 3 or 4 years, the players went to Europe to do a test and make a contract. For example, Park, who played in Manchester, after being under-18, he had no option to go to University, he played for a year and then went to the Olympic team to go to Japan. Hence Hyun-Jun, a Korean forward who signed for Ajax, after the age of 18 said that he did not want to go to university and went to the Netherlands to take a test at Ajax and passed. He currently plays in France in the Second Division. He was one of the first Korean players to go to Europe to test, since before in Europe they didn’t want to test Koreans, because they thought he had a bad level. Seeing that he did well, several Koreans went to try out for teams in Europe.
“What do Park Ji Sung and Lee Young-pyo do for a living?”
Lee Young Pyo is the president of the First Division club Gagwon FC and Park is the manager of the club “Jeonbuk Motors”, the biggest club in the youth divisions in Korea.
—What they achieved is a sample of the professionalism as they work in Korea with soccer?
Yes, of course, I believe that all the work that the Federation has done has been shown by the players in this World Cup and I think it was very positive, because I saw all the work that the Federation did and it is that they had a project after the 2002 World Cup to grow the players and they were doing a great job with English and German. Now, we have players with a good level to fight against the strongest teams in the world like Portugal and Uruguay.
—If Korea is ordered, can it hit Brazil?
The truth is that it is very difficult, because as you know, the Brazilian players have the quality to play one against one. So, when the offensive player is going to dribble, they are going to have more chances with the passes, that will make it more dangerous. As I told you: our defenders are not that good. That is my concern.
I have worked in the news industry for over 10 years. I have a keen interest in sports and have written for many different publications. I am currently working as an author at 24 News Recorder. I cover mostly sports news but also write about other topics such as current affairs and politics. I have a strong interest in social media and how it can be used to engage with audiences.