Monday, July 12, 2010

Back To The Bread And Butter (Or Kimchi And Rice)

Back To The Bread And Butter (Or Kimchi And Rice)
Football never stops. The World Cup has just finished but a full program of K-League returns this weekend after the summer break. Much has happened since May 9 when the 15 teams were last in action not least the fact that the national team reached the second round in South Africa for the first time ever in a World Cup held overseas.

There is always a ‘World Cup effect’ to be felt domestically after the quadrennial competition comes to an end. The beautiful game has been unavoidable for the past few weeks and the success of the national team will give a boost to attendances around the country. How much and for how long, well, those are the questions currently being asked by a number of journalists. As always, we will just have to wait and see.

Unfortunately for local fans, many of the stars who shone in South Africa are already back in Europe and not too many K-Leaguers who took the pitch in the Port Elizabeth, Durban and Johannesburg will be in action in Gwangju, Ulsan and Incheon over the coming weeks. The ones that did return may have their ranks thinned further as the Taeguk Warriors’ good performances on the global stage caught the eye of European clubs.

Defender Cho Yong-hyong has already been linked with a move to English Premier League team Aston Villa and with the European transfer season about to reach full throttle in the next few weeks, more rumors, reports, links and even moves are sure to happen.

Other World Cup related K-League action is the fact that a number of teams have had their coach linked to the vacant national team position after Huh Jung-moo stepped down on July 2. There have still been a couple of coaching changes already.

The biggest story is that of Cha Bum-kun. South Korea's 1998 World Cup boss left Suwon Bluewings on June 6 after six years in charge of the two time Asian champion. The first part of the season was a terrible one for the club’s many fans who are accustomed to tasting, or at least getting a whiff of it. After eight defeats in eleven games, Suwon is bottom of the standings.

His replacement is an interesting one. Suwon is a team accustomed to big name players and coaches but the club appointed Yoon Sung-hyo. The former Suwon player and assistant coach has enjoyed some success coaching Soongsil University but will find life at the Big Bird a little different. In years to come, the club’s appointment will either be seen as a stroke of genius or symbolic of a lack of ambition. His first K-League match comes against fellow strugglers Daegu FC on Sunday.

Incheon United is also in the midst of change. Serbian boss Ilja Petkovic quit in June as his wife was reportedly ill and they wanted to return home. Soon after though, reports came through that Serbia’s 2006 World Cup coach seemingly had his geography a little confused as he ended up in Qatar, a land renowned for lucrative coaching contracts, to take over Al Ahli. Assistant manager Kim Bong-kil will take charge of the team until the end of the season.

Ulsan Horangi starts the second part of the season in top spot and face third-placed Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in the biggest game of the weekend. Ulsan boss Kim Ho-gon has shown tentative interest in the vacant national team coaching job while his Seongnam counterpart Shin Tae-yong has ruled himself out of the running. By the time the two meet, the decision will be made and there could be a part of Kim hoping that he will not be sat on the UIsan bench on Sunday.

The Tigers may be in first place but it is tight at the top with just three points separating first and fifth and six between the leaders and Busan in eighth. Jeju United is a surprise second with Seongnam, Seoul and Gyeongnam all close behind. There is still more than half of the season to go however and much football to be played.

Copyright: John Duerden & Soccerphile.com

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