The Korea Herald


Football federation leaning toward hiring full-time men's coach despite tight schedule

By Yonhap

Published : Feb. 21, 2024 - 20:31

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Chung Hae-sung, head of the National Teams Committee at the Korea Football Association, speaks at a press conference at the KFA House in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap) Chung Hae-sung, head of the National Teams Committee at the Korea Football Association, speaks at a press conference at the KFA House in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

South Korea's national football federation will likely appoint a full-time head coach to fill the vacancy at the men's national team instead of a temporary one as rumored, a senior executive in charge of the process said Wednesday.

Chung Hae-sung, named the new head of the National Teams Committee at the Korea Football Association (KFA) on Tuesday, met with new members of his committee Wednesday to discuss the hiring of the new men's national team bench boss.

The KFA fired the previous men's head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, last Friday, holding him accountable for South Korea's semifinal exit at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup in Qatar earlier this month.

The National Teams Committee is responsible for appointing head coaches for national teams across different age groups. After sacking Klinsmann, the KFA also reassigned former National Teams Committee chief, Michael Mueller, to a different post.

With South Korea scheduled to play two World Cup qualifying matches against Thailand on March 21 and 26, time isn't on the KFA's side to find Klinsmann's replacement. The tight schedule has led to speculation that the KFA would settle for a temporary, caretaker coach for now and would seek a full-time replacement later in the year.

However, Chung said the majority of his committee pushed for naming a full-time coach immediately.

"Most of our members said it isn't right to delay the appointment of a full-time boss until June (when South Korea will next play) at such a critical juncture for the national team," Chung said at his inaugural press conference at the KFA headquarters in Seoul. "They said the national team should have a full-time coach from the get-go in order to have strong foundation. And they also said we would run into a series of challenges to bring in a temporary coach."

According to Chung, the minority of the committee argued that the KFA shouldn't rush to hire a full-time head coach under time constraints and that South Korea should have little trouble playing the next two matches under a temporary coach.

"But then many of the members countered that we wouldn't be able to find anyone willing to coach the team just for those two matches," Chung added. "Even if it will only be two matches, there will still be a lot of pressure on the new temporary coach. So even though we're leaving all doors open, we leaned toward a full-time coach."

Chung also said the committee will go over candidates both from South Korea and from overseas but added, "While we'd be open to a foreign coach, our members said we should put more weight on hiring a Korean coach."

The national team has gone through two consecutive foreign nationals as head coaches, with Klinsmann succeeding Paulo Bento.

Chung said he and his members compiled a list of eight qualities that they would like to see from the successful candidate. It included tactical chops, an ability to develop young players, successful track record, tournament experience, communication skills and leadership skills.

"The new coach must be able to devise game plans that best suit the national team and then make sure the players can execute them," Chung said. "Ultimately, the biggest key is for the new coach to produce good results when we give him the job based on these qualities."

Chung said a new Korean coach may end up being someone already under contract with a club in the domestic K League. The South Korean club season kicks off on March 1, and a team may lose their head coach even before the start of the season.

Asked about such a possibility, Chung said, "If we do end up hiring someone away from a K League club, we will pay that team a visit and ask for their cooperation in person."

In addition to preparing for the World Cup qualifying matches, the new coach will also be tasked with resolving apparent friction within the team.

Captain Son Heung-min dislocated a finger in a scuffle with young midfielder Lee Kang-in over a game of table tennis on the eve of South Korea's semifinal loss to Jordan at the Asian Cup. Klinsmann later blamed the team's disappointing showing on internal chemistry issues, amid whispers that the team had long been divided into several cliques based on their ages or club affiliations.

The two principal figures, though, have mended fences. Lee wrote on his Instagram page earlier Wednesday that he had visited Son in London to apologize to the skipper, and Son followed up about an hour later on social media to announce that he'd accepted Lee's apology, while also asking fans to forgive the 23-year-old.

Chung said the two players' reconciliation was "really great news for the national team."

"When I first heard about it, I was really happy and excited, as if we'd won a tournament," Chung said. "We were all pleased to learn about that development."

KFA President Chung Mong-gyu mentioned the possibility of not calling up players involved in the Asian Cup row for the March matches, but Chung Hae-sung said it wasn't discussed during Wednesday's meeting.

"When it comes to selecting players, it's only right to fully entrust the new head coach with that responsibility," the executive added.