The message of Jong-Hwan Park’s passing is a cautionary tale

On the 7th of this month, the late coach Park Jong-hwan (1938.2-2023.10), who led Korean soccer to its first ever four-place finish at a FIFA-organized tournament, passed away. Needless to say, his coaching history is colorful and the resonance of his leadership on Korean soccer and its leaders is great. However, it is regrettable that the passing of the late coach is not without regret. The late coach Jong-hwan Park reached the peak of splendor more than any other leader during his career.

However, his old age due to illness made him realize the impermanence of his leadership life, as the splendor of his leadership life was ‘unfeeling’ and only the shabbiness stood out. In fact, the late coach’s achievements of reaching the quarterfinals of the 1983 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Mexico and winning three consecutive regular league titles in the 1993-1995 Korean Football League (K League) are ‘before and after’ achievements for Korean soccer. Therefore, it is considered natural to honor him accordingly. However, during his lifetime, the late coach Park Jong-hwan was treated with utter indifference, with only a handful of his students and certain acquaintances honored. Of course, the fact that the Korean Football Association (KFA) recognized the late coach’s contributions and held a funeral ceremony as a tribute is to be applauded.

Needless to say, the driving force behind the development of Korean soccer was the presence of leaders like Park Jong-hwan, and it is necessary to honor their contributions. This brings us to Gus Hiddink (76, Netherlands), who led Korea to the fourth place finish at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Hiddink was awarded an honorary citizenship (Seoul) and an honorary doctorate in business administration (not related to soccer) by a university (Ulsan National University) for his role in the quarterfinals, and is still considered a national hero and enjoys various benefits from the KFA. This is a huge benefit that the late coach Park Jong-hwan did not receive.

When we look at the reality of Korean soccer today, there is a big difference between the four top four finishes achieved by the late Jong-Hwan Park in 1983 and the four top four finishes achieved by Hiddink in 2002. This is because the late coach Jong-hwan Park’s coaching achievement of raising Korean football from one of the fringes of world football to one of the top four in world football is superior. Therefore, the late coach Jong-hwan Park should have received the same honor as Hiddink during his lifetime. However, he did not receive such honors and benefits when he passed away.

Therefore, the KFA and the Korean Professional Football Association should take the late coach Park Jong-hwan’s passing as a ‘lesson learned’ and take a deep interest in establishing regulations to implement special policies to honor contributors who have dedicated themselves to the development of Korean football. The KFA’s 2023 budget is approximately KRW 158.1 billion. This is the highest budget among the 57 sports federations of the KFA. This huge budget is allocated to pay for the construction of a football center, national teams for each age group, 17 city and provincial football associations, national tournaments, football promotion, and more.

However, if the KFA is interested in doing so, there is no shortage of financial and material rewards for the contributors to the development of Korean soccer. This could include utilizing the FIFA World Cup dividends and the 22 billion won in sports betting revenues. On the other hand, a portion of the KFA’s own revenue of 88.7 billion won as of 2023 could also be considered. This is not to say that there should be indiscriminate honors. Rather, strict criteria such as merit and age should be applied to the selection of honorees. The merits need to be specific, such as performances in the top four of FIFA-organized tournaments and the Olympic Games, and age, such as 70 years old or older.

There are currently no such contributors to Korean soccer. In light of this, the KFA’s indifference to the lifetime contributions of the late coach Park Jong-hwan is indeed a stain. Therefore, the KFA should not neglect to honor contributors who have dedicated themselves to the development of Korean football as part of a plan to raise the pride and self-esteem of footballers and to build up ‘Dae Dong Unity’. The first organization to be honored is the Korean OB Football Association. The members of the OB Football Association have built the foundation of Korean soccer in the past by focusing solely on soccer in harsh conditions and environments, and there is no doubt that they are dedicated contributors to the development of Korean soccer.메이저사이트

If these contributors are neglected by the KFA, soccer players will feel skeptical of their existence. The KFA must face up to this and provide them with more attention and support so that they can fulfill their duties and responsibilities. The task and responsibility of honoring contributors is no less important for the KFA than it is for professional soccer leagues. It is no exaggeration to say that one of the pillars of the 40-year history of the K League is its leaders. The late coach Park Jong-hwan was able to win three consecutive titles, and the mutual competition that resulted accelerated the development of professional soccer. Therefore, the KFA should not neglect to honor the retired leaders who stood on the K League stage.

It is desirable that the honor be limited to those who meet the strict selection rules. The first step would be to authorize them to attend K League matches and participate in related events such as award ceremonies. It’s a shift in thinking, not an unnecessary favor that will add to the financial outlay of the league. It’s long past time for the KFA to stand alone. The league is now imposing large fines on coaches, players, and teams as a punishment. However, there is no official breakdown of how these fines are spent.

Despite this, neither the coaches, players, nor the teams have raised the issue. Even the Professional Footballers’ Association is “honey dumb”. Therefore, the KFA should do its best to build trust by designating a portion of the accumulated disciplinary fines as a special management fund to honor retired leaders who have contributed to the development of the K League. No one can throw stones of blame and criticism at the material and monetary expenditure to honor the contributors who have dedicated themselves to the development of Korean football and the K League.

On the contrary, it should be welcomed. Now more than ever, the message of the late coach’s passing is important for the KFA and professional soccer organizations. Time passes and everything is forgotten. But what the late coach did for Korean soccer is so great that it cannot and should not be forgotten. The late coach has become an eternal star. However, his star will shine forever as a bright beacon for the development of Korean soccer. There is no future for Korean soccer if we forget to say two words, “Yes,” to those who truly contributed to the development of Korean soccer.


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