Tuesday, January 27, 2009

All Change At KFA As New Year Starts

Chung and Bush share leaving office stories.

As the Year of the Rat gave way to the Year of the Ox in Seoul, Dr. Chung Myung-joon was finally herded out of his office as the head of the Korean Football Association (KFA) to be replaced by Cho Chung-yun.

It really was the end of an era. For the first time in 16 years, Dr. Chung did not be hand out New Year presents to staff at the KFA. Suave, sophisticated and a smooth operator, he is a well-known figure in the world of soccer and is still the vice-president of FIFA. In South Korea, he is just well-known. The son of Chung Ju-yung, the legendary workhorse, entrepreneur and founder of Hyundai, is a figure that, as Koreans say, has very wide feet.

Chung Junior is the boss of Hyundai Heavy Industries, is a member of congress and like his father, unsuccessfully ran for president. For a time in 2002, it looked as if he would make it to the Blue House only to fall with the end in sight. Chung instead became Roh Moo-hyun’s running mate but dropped out the day before Roh won the election in December 2002.

2002 was almost a dream year for Dr Chung. Six months earlier he basked in the national team’s success at the World Cup. He fully deserved the plaudits as he was the man credited with bringing the tournament to South Korea in the first place.

Despite the fact Japan started its campaign two years earlier, Chung threw himself into persuading the world that Korea was the place to be and he did so with energy and guile that even his father would have been proud of. He was vindicated in 1996 as Korea was awarded the tournament along with its neighbor across the East Sea. He was thrilled in 2002 when the team outdid Japan on the field and the nation did the same off it.

It has been a very happy 16 years for me,” Chung said as he departed. “It will be strange not to be the president any more but I am still vice-president of FIFA until 2011 and will be hard at work helping soccer develop.”

Chung’s other activities and connections proved effective in helping Korean soccer develop but that time has passed, or should have. More a businessman and politician than a football guy, Chung brought a new level of politics to KFA House, and another thing he was accused of bringing to the large building in the exclusive Seoul neighborhood of Shinmunro was a number of Hyundai men. It remains to be seen what influence he will continue to have at the KFA – he is now honorary boss – but for now, it is time to give Cho a chance to prove that he can be his own man.

He was certainly out on his own as the results of the election came in. Cho, who has been at the KFA since 1998, defeated rival Heo Seung-pyo in an election held last week by 18 votes to 10.

Thank you for choosing me as president of the KFA,” Cho said. “I am willing to listen to voices from seniors and juniors and I will embrace people who did not support me, as well as those who backed me to develop South Korean football,'' he added.

There are a number of issues that need to be looked into. The way the body goes about choosing its national team coach is clumsy. Last time round it was a major embarrassment played out in front of the world’s media as Dr. Chung dropped the ball and public rejections came from high-profile European coaches.

Broadcasting rights is an issue that was hard to solve given Chung’s connections with the big television networks in Yeoido. Finding the right broadcaster to work with, one that can promote and develop the game is something worth looking into. Improving facilities at the grass-roots and youth level is already happening but input from the top does no harm.

The biggest challenge though is for the new guy is to step out from the shadow and influence of the old guy. Chung Mark II is a possibility. But we will have to wait and see.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile

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