“They keep coming up with good players. It shows the quality of Korean soccer.”
Coach Asier Eisagirre Rosa, who traveled to Korea with the Spanish Real Sociedad U-17 team, had this to say about Korean soccer. “The fact that there are so many players who are performing well in Europe means that the level of Korean soccer is high. He’s not the only one. European youth coaches who traveled to Korea to participate in the K League International Youth Cup Incheon 2023 also agreed that “the quality of Korean soccer is high.”
Eisagirre, along with coaches from Valencia (Spain) and Wolverhampton (England), spoke favorably of Korean soccer at the tournament’s opening media day at the Howard Johnson Incheon Airport Hotel in Incheon on Feb. 2. Real Sociedad, Valencia, and Wolverhampton all have strong ties to Korea as Korean players have played or are still playing for the clubs.
Sergio Rosano Gomes, head coach of Valencia’s youth team, said, “The level of Korean soccer is very high. With each World Cup, Korean soccer is growing more and more, and I think it is now at a global standard,” he said, explaining that the country has produced top stars such as Son Heung-min (Tottenham), Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain-PSG), and Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich).
“I have a special place in my heart for Lee Kang-in,” Rosano continued, adding that “even though he’s gone to another team (PSG), he’s still a beloved player.” Valencia is Lee’s hometown team, where he joined when he was 10 years old and went through the age-group youth teams before making his professional debut. “Korean soccer has a lot of creative players and a lot of speed,” says Rosano. They have a lot of special players and I think they are one of the best teams in Asia.”
Richard Walker, who coaches Wolverhampton’s youth team, agrees. “I think the level of Korean football is improving a lot, and I remember Seol Ki-hyun (Gyeongnam FC manager) playing since 2004 and being a very good player. Now Hwang Hee-chan is playing. “I think Korean soccer is already world-class,” he said, “so it’s even more meaningful to come to Korea and I have high expectations. We have Ji-Min Kyu (Korean-British) in our youth team now. He’s a striker with a very interesting and creative skill set.”
If Valencia had Lee Kang-in and Wolverhampton had Seol Ki-hyun and Hwang Hee-chan, Real Sociedad was the club where Lee played. “It’s been 20 years, but Lee played for us, too,” said Eisagirre. Since then, there have been players who have gone on to play in Europe. I think it shows the level of Korean soccer,” he said, “and the players are already showing good performances individually.”
The positive assessment of Korean soccer was echoed by coaches and officials from other Asian youth teams. Num Ratchakit, general manager of Chonburi FC in Thailand, said, “The K League is the top league in Asia. There are more and more players in the Thai league who dream of joining the K League. Personally, I remember the K League as the league where Piafong played.”
J-League manager Kozaburo Shigeno, who attended the event on behalf of Tokyo Verdi, said, “The J-League has been following the K-League for a long time, and I think we are now at a similar level of competition. There are now players who captain European clubs in both leagues. The level is rising as we compete with each other as rivals,” he added.
The press conference was the opening official event to kick off the K League International Youth Cup Incheon 2023, which will be held at four soccer fields around Incheon from March 3. The U-17 international tournament, which is open to players born on or after January 1, 2006, is organized by the Korea Football Association and co-hosted by the Federation and Incheon City Football Association. FC Seoul, Suwon Samsung, Jeonbuk Hyundai, Pohang Steelers, Incheon United, Bupyeong Goa, Real Sociedad, Valencia, Wolverhampton, Anderlecht (Belgium – four European teams), Tokyo Verdi, and Chonburi will participate from Korea. Domestic teams were selected from the first through fourth place finishers of the K League Youth Club of the Year and two teams from the host region.
The tournament will consist of 12 teams divided into two groups, playing a three-day group stage, followed by a ranking match between the same ranked teams in each group without a tournament. The group stage and the third-place match will be held at Incheon Munhak Stadium Auxiliary Stadium, Incheon Asiad Auxiliary Stadium and Southeast Asia Drubby Stadium. The much-anticipated final will be held at the Incheon Football Stadium, home of professional soccer’s Incheon United, at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 9.
The tournament was organized by the Korean Football Association to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the K League and to improve the international competitiveness of K League Youth. The idea is to provide an opportunity for K League Youth players to gain a wide range of international experience, just as European players of the same age gain a wealth of international experience through the UEFA Champions League.카지노
In the future, the Federation plans to expand the tournament and continue to increase the number of contact points between the K League Youth and advanced leagues overseas. The expectation is that not only the players but also the front office and coaching staff will form an international exchange network, which will naturally lead to securing international competitiveness.