The Korea Herald


S. Korean soccer federation committee calls for Klinsmann's dismissal

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Feb. 15, 2024 - 17:13

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Hwangbo Kwan, the technical director of the Korea Football Association speaks during a press briefing held at the KFA headquarter in Jongno-gu, Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap) Hwangbo Kwan, the technical director of the Korea Football Association speaks during a press briefing held at the KFA headquarter in Jongno-gu, Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

National Team Committee of the Korea Football Association said Thursday that its members have agreed that Jurgen Klinsmann should be replaced as the men's national team head coach, following the team's disappointing performance at the Asian Cup 2023.

The committee pointed out the coach's insufficient tactical preparation for South Korea's disappointing semifinals match against Jordan, his lack of commitment as the national team coach, and questioned his leadership over the recent quarrel among key members of the team.

"Due to various reasons mentioned above, we've decided that coach Klinsmann cannot exercise his leadership as the head coach of the national team anymore, and (the committee) generally agreed that he needs to be replaced," the KFA's technical director Hwangbo Kwan said in a media briefing held after the meeting.

The committee held the meeting at the KFA headquarters in Seoul to review South Korea's performance at the Asian Football Confederation event. Committee head Michael Muller and seven other members attended the meeting, with Klinsmann remotely attending via teleconference.

Hwangbo said the committee will shortly notify the KFA of its decisions, as the KFA President Chung Mong-gyu has the authority to make the final decision on the national team's staffing choices. It was reported Wednesday that several members of the KFA, including vice president Lee Seok-jae, suggested the coach's removal, to which Chung said there needs to be "justification."

There have been calls for the German coach to step down since South Korea's 2-0 loss to Jordan in last week's semifinals match of Asian Cup in Qatar, which meant yet another lost opportunity for the country to win the continent's top tournament. Adding insult to injury was the fact that Jordan, ranked No.87 by FIFA, was sitting 64 places below South Korea.

Many had considered Klinsmann's squad to be among the finest in the country's history, packed with talents like 2022 EPL scoring leader Son Heung-min, premier defender Kim Min-jae from Bayern Munich, and Lee Kang-in of Paris Saint-Germain. But recent reports revealed conflict between members of the team, particularly among the two of the team's leading scorers in the Asian Cup: Son and Lee.

Jurgen Klinsmann (left) and Son Heung-min (Yonhap) Jurgen Klinsmann (left) and Son Heung-min (Yonhap)

The KFA on Wednesday confirmed earlier media reports that the two players had gotten into a physical altercation prior to the semifinals match against Jordan, sparked reportedly when Lee and younger members ignored team captain Son calling for a short meeting and went to play ping pong. The scuffle led to Son dislocating his finger ahead of the crucial match.

Lee on Wednesday issued an official apology for disappointing the fans and said he should have complied with the instructions of the veterans, but did not mention a scuffle, instead apologizing for his "argument" with Son. Lee's lawyer issued a statement on his behalf Thursday morning and denied reports that his client took a swing at Son, adding that the players playing ping pong was a routine thing for the national team.

The news of friction within the national team put the coach's leadership in an even worse light in the eyes of the South Korean public. Even prior to the team's lackluster performance in the Asian Cup, many questioned his tactical abilities and supposed lack of commitment, with reports that he spent more time overseas than in South Korea.

As the KFA committee convened in the KFA headquarters in Seoul, several protestors set up camp outside the building and called for Chung's resignation for hiring Klinsmann. A civic group even filed a complaint to the police against the KFA chief for his alleged unilateral decision to appoint the national team coach, and some politicians, such as Daegu Mayor Hong Joong-pyo, have been directly demanding Klinsmann to be sacked.