A plan to change youth culture in Korean football from Park Sung-ho

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As K League football is set to return, we recorded a podcast on how the league could look. So then in the build-up to the arrival of the new season we take a look at an interview Park Sung-ho gave to Sportal in Korea as he talked about his career and a new coaching role with young players in the country. 

Park and his 300 matches 

The journeyman Park Sung-ho spoke to Korean media about his football career and improving the youth culture in the country.

He is referred to as a journeyman as he appropriated over 300 K League appearances with nine K League sides, he even had a short spell in Japan with Yokohama FC.

In all, he scored 67 times in the K League with his debut coming in 2001, with FC Anyang. Despite a career played almost entirely in Korea when he did retire this was a quiet exit. This may be partly due to playing with so many clubs with his longest spell being the four years he spent with Daejeon Citizen.

At 35-years-old Park retired in 2017 following 31 matches in his final and only season with Seongnam, he even managed nine goals that season. In this final season, he was the clubs best player and as am sure you could imagine after this league campaign clubs would have still been chasing his signature.

Despite this and the fact other clubs where looking to sign him, he chose to sign off with more than 300 matches at the top in Korea. His reasoning for this was he was tired of moving and wanted to spend time with his family.

An interesting side note is following retirement he was offered a chance to play with Kerala Blasters in India. At this time they were managed by David James with Dimitar Berbatov and Wes Brown within their squad but Park told Korean media he had no regret over his retirement.

This was seen as he said "I was amazed that David James offered me a contract. If I had gone, I could have shared a pitch with Berbatov and Brown. I was thinking about going abroad but chose to retire in peace with my family."

Leading on from the discussion on Park career it is important to look at what he is up to now and how after all those matches at the top he is looking at improving the new generation.


Youth coaching in Korea 

As with his playing career, he has not taken the easy route as he could have looked at being a coach at a K League club. He did reportedly have contract offers from K League sides and some university teams but he took the alternative route to start in youth football.

As a coach, he has worked with football at youth level from Under-15s to Under-12s. Then with this experience, he has created his own club. His reasoning for this was he said, "I don't think there has been an environment where children can play football happily yet. Everyone says that 'youth football should be enjoyed' when they are instructed by leaders, but that's an ideal story. I wanted to realise this. In football, everyone wants quick results, but when you are young, you want to enjoy the game too."

At all levels, football is a results business but Park commented "A team with good play is a team with good personal skills, and a team with good grades is a good team. It's hard to talk about the team while discussing the results with high school children. It's not about gathering individuals for a team, you need to work with each person's personal skills, teaching eight people the same thing and not wanting the same result, letting them find their capabilities and then placing positions."

Here he is looking to explain to the next generation that football is about enjoyment along with results, in the interview he talked about players running with the ball and not to worry if sometimes they do not score.

There are cultural issues to overcome in the game as the parents shout at their kids to kick the ball when defending instead of trying to play it out which is what Park does not wish the new generation to be taught.

Teaching children to enjoy the game and play with the ball at their feet is now something coaches wish to implement throughout the world and Korea is no different although it is, of course, a positive they are talking about this already.

Park agrees that Korean youth football needs to change this of course as got to happen gradually. You can not overnight change the style of football but the aim is that in time young players will learn to play with the ball at their feet.

The interview ended as he explained "I do not think our clubs are special. However, they are making the children consider the process of football more important while also working on their grades in school helping them in life. I want to create an environment where children can play football and learn as a special skill. We promised to change the culture of youth football coaching one by one, out of the stereotype that we should become, and create an environment where the game can be enjoyed without being caught up in getting the result always on the pitch."

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