Sunday, April 11, 2010

Time Running Out For Injured Korean Stars

South Africa.
The seasons are changing in South Africa. The summer weather is coming to an end and the beaches of Durban and Cape Town are no longer as busy as they were. Fall has arrived and soon, winter will come to bring pleasant days but cold nights to cities such as Johannesburg. In 2010 however, winter means one thing in South Africa – the World Cup.

That tournament looms large on the horizon of Yeom Ki-hun.The Suwon attacker hasn’t yet played a game for his new club since arriving in Gyeonggi Province from Ulsan Horang-I in the off-season. The likeable 27 year-old is battling through an annual problem – injury. He needs to start playing very soon if he is to take one of the 23 seats on the plane that leaves Incheon International Airport in late May.

Yeom, who still bears the scars from a serious automobile accident in 2006, rarely plays a full season. A series of physical problems have blighted his career and prevented him, perhaps, from becoming the star he could have been. The latest setback came in February when he fractured a bone in his foot during training with the national team at the East Asian Championships.

It was a cruel blow for the player and the former Ulsan star, who has played 30 times for the Taeguk Warriors, is keen to get back on the pitch to show what he can do. “I haven’t given up on going to the World Cup. The operation went well and at the moment, I am feeling good,” Yeom told local media in March.

“My recovery is coming on leaps and bounds,” he added. “My strong points are such things as taking free-kicks, crossing and shooting. If I show that I am at my best, opportunities should come my way."

Yeom expects to be back around the middle of this month and that is looking a little optimistic and is cutting it fine. Assuming he does return on schedule, and with this versatile attacker you can never be sure, it doesn’t give him much time to get himself back to match fitness and build his stamina.

National team coach Huh Jung-moo has an exhibition match in Seoul against Ecuador planned on May 16 – the only game in the Land of the Morning Calm before the big event – and the selected stars will get together on May 9. If Yeom is not in that roster then it all will be too late.

The same applies to Seol Ki-hyeon, another winger who can play on either side or even in the middle. The former English Premier League star left Fulham in the winter to come and play for Pohang Steelers. At the age of 31, he had never played in the K-League in his career and he still hasn’t. A knee injury that didn’t seem to serious at first has dragged on.

At almost every press conference early in the season, Pohang boss Waldemar Lemos told reporters that the player was almost ready but then in late March, it was revealed that ‘The Sniper’ has gone under the knife. It wasn’t a big operation so Seol could be back this month but if he wants to go the World Cup, (and who doesn’t?) he needs to be back, fit and playing well as soon as possible.

In truth it doesn’t look good for either, especially Seol, but at least they will be in good company with the likes of David Beckham of England and Spain’s Cesc Fabregas also likely to be watching the tournament from the sidelines.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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