Kim Eun-joong talks about national team squabbles

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“Seniors and juniors should respect each other, hierarchy? It’s gone”

Suwon FC head coach Kim Eun-joong, who has extensive experience coaching national teams at all levels, has spoken out on how to deal with the recent squad feud within the South Korean national soccer team.

At the opening media day of the Hana Bank K League 2024, Kim shared his thoughts on managing and communicating with players across generations in the squad.

After retiring from playing for Daejeon Citizens in 2014, Kim coached AFC Thubiz (Belgium-2015-2017) before joining the U-23 national team in 2017 under then-head coach Kim Bong-gil. He stayed on after Kim was replaced by Kim Hak-bum and was part of the team that won gold at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang.

Kim was then promoted to head coach in 2021 when then-head coach Lee Min-sung was appointed head coach of Daejeon Hana Citizens. He also participated in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a member of the national soccer team’s coaching staff.

The following year, Kim was named head coach of the U-20 national team ahead of 2022. In his first full-time head coaching role, Kim was recognized for his leadership as the team qualified for the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina and even made it to the quarterfinals of the tournament.

Kim, who stepped down as U-20 head coach when his contract expired, is making his professional soccer coaching debut with Suwon FC ahead of this season after working with the K League’s Technical Study Group (TSG).

Kim, who spent the last five years on the age-group national team coaching staff and as a head coach, said there needs to be mutual respect when it comes to communicating with the younger generation, including Lee Kang-in, who was at the center of the recent generational issues within the national team and the ping-pong incident at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) 2023 Asian Cup in Qatar.

“You can’t force them now,” Kim said. I did that with the U-20 national team, and at Suwon FC, I talk to the seniors a lot and respect (them). I have to make them understand what kind of training I am doing,” he said. “Otherwise, they will ask me why I am doing this training. It’s a natural communication. I think it’s changed from just being a leader in front to being a companion who goes along with them. Sometimes I ask them to do a lot of things, and I think that’s how the players have changed recently.”

Kim also spoke about Lee Kang-in’s situation at the Asian Cup. The athlete apologized, but when asked if his childhood in Spain might have desensitized him to the importance of hierarchy in Korea, he said, “Actually, hierarchy has disappeared a lot these days. That’s why I think we need to protect each other’s interests, not who’s wrong,” he said.

“As long as juniors and seniors respect each other and honor each other’s commitments, it’s not a problem, but if they cross the line too much, it becomes a problem. We don’t know who’s right as a third party, and we don’t really care about that. The time went by so fast (preparing for the season),” he laughed.

Some have argued that Lee would have been the middle man for the national team if he had been available, and that’s why he needs to return to the national team quickly.

“I’m 27 years old and if I perform well enough this season, I can come back on board and play (for the national team). Anyway, the coach is changing, so he (Lee) will be motivated,” he said.

“Probably he himself has been training more intensely this 토토사이트 winter than last winter, but he hasn’t neglected his training and has kept up well. He’s a player who never stops working out,” Kim said, adding that he expects a better season from Lee.

As for the discord within the squad, Kim wanted to establish discipline as a professional team.

He said, “There is nothing to say about it. “It’s not about saying ‘I’m sorry’ for doing something wrong, it’s about paying a fine that fits the situation,” he said.

“You just say, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it,’ and that’s it. You don’t talk down to a professional. I think this (the fine) is more professional because he’s responsible for his own mistakes, so there’s nothing I can do to force him to do it.”

“I try to give the biggest fines, especially if there are problems within the squad. I don’t understand if there’s harm to the team, if there’s a problem, so I set the biggest fine. Of course, the fine is appropriate for a civic club. If it was a corporate club, I would fine them a lot, but I can’t,” he laughed.

Meanwhile, Kim’s K League 1 debut will be against Incheon United in the first round at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 2 at the Incheon Football Stadium.

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