[Conversational meeting] Finding opportunity in crisis… Coach Ha Seok-ju, “We must prepare according to the reality of college soccer”

College soccer, which was popular in the past and was the cradle of developing soccer players, is losing its reputation. There has been an increase in the number of people giving up on their dreams at a young age, as they are perceived as failing if they do not become professional athletes. In addition, it became increasingly distant from the public’s attention. Ha Seok-ju (55), coach of Ajou University, finds a way to survive in a crisis. He’s doing everything he can to make college football happen again.

◆ Entering college

Coach Ha went to Ajou University and made his professional debut at Busan Daewoo (now Busan I-Park), then went on to play for Cerezo Osaka, Vissel Kobe (Japan), and Pohang Steelers. He also played 95 games for his country and scored 23 goals. During his active years, he boasted of his outstanding skills to the point where he was nicknamed ‘Left Foot Master’. He laughed and said, “I think the best time for all soccer players was when they were active,” and then added, “I think I can do better.”

As his nickname suggests, he played all positions on the left, from wing forward (side attacker) to midfielder and wingback (side defender). Coach Ha said, “If you know how to manage a game, you can do it to a certain extent in various positions. “He experienced several positions depending on the coaches’ choices, but the position that suited him best was wingback,” he explained.

He continued, “However, I wonder what it would have been like if he had played as a right wing forward. In the past, wing forwards often used their speed to simply cross. In modern soccer, if the left-footed player is placed on the right and the right-footed player is placed on the left, they can use their speed and enter the penalty box to hit a shot. He reflected, “He has the advantage of being able to play in a variety of ways.”

After coaching Pohang, Gyeongnam FC, and Jeonnam Dragons, he was appointed as the coach of his alma mater, Ajou University, in 2011. Then, in August 2012, he took charge of Jeonnam and led the team that was struggling in the relegation zone to remain in the first division. He returned to Ajou University in 2015 and continues his relationship to this day.

Coach Ha said, “I didn’t think about becoming a university coach from the beginning. He also wanted to go abroad and gain various experiences. “But there were parts I didn’t want,” he said. “I don’t like having anyone get involved when I become a director. There is a part of me that wants to be given full authority. However, I have seen many civic clubs swayed by external factors. “When the team owner changed, I was skeptical about the leadership as I saw the coaches’ positions shake,” he said.

Coach Ha has led Ajou University for a long time and considers his personality the most important. As soccer is a team sport, it is necessary for players to get along well with each other. He said, “Humanity and etiquette are important. There are players who have learned those aspects well from a young age, but there are also players whose behavior is not good. “Those things must be clearly taught and passed on,” he said, expressing his philosophy.

◆ Korean soccer in crisis

The gap in soccer between Korea and Japan is widening. Recently, national teams at each level experienced the humiliation of losing 0-3 to Japan in five consecutive games. There is a big difference starting with the infrastructure. Coach Ha, who played in Japan during his active years, was also worried about this. He said, “In the past, there were a lot of people who enjoyed soccer, so there were many different players who were good at it. Recently, as the population cliff (the point in the life cycle when the population aged 45 to 49, which is the age group where consumption reaches its peak, begins to decline) has intensified, the number of elementary school students is decreasing. “Because there are no students, it is not an environment where many good players will come out,” he pointed out.

He continued, “In Japan, even if college players sign a professional contract, they advance after graduating from school. The system is good. Korea is currently in an ambiguous state. Even though the environment was not in place, we created a system to pursue studies. As a result, I was in a situation where I didn’t have enough exercise. There is bound to be a growing gap in skill with Japanese players. “It is unfortunate that the gap is widening,” he said.

College football is experiencing particular difficulties in a changing environment. As the professional soccer K-League implements a mandatory participation rule for players under the age of 22, the number of players quitting soccer if they do not find a job by their second year of college is increasing. He expressed concern that players who only focused on being professional players would easily give up on their dreams.

Coach Ha said, “Bae Jun-ho (Stoke City) was number one in the rankings during his high school days. He was definitely different when he played practice games. “It is right for players who have excelled since high school to go pro,” he said. “It is also important for players who are not that good to have time in college.” Then, there are players who stand out late. He said, “Even if he is not a professional player, he graduated and became a coach, agent, etc. He just needs to find something he can do, but he seems to give up too easily.”

◆ Searching for a breakthrough

Ajou University was the first college football team to introduce a front office in 2015 and is now in charge of home game management and promotions. In addition, the college soccer U-League home opening game was made into a festival. This year, Coach Ha invited colleagues he played with during his active years and invited cast members from the entertainment program ‘Girls Who Hit Goals’ to give a preview.

He said, “Ajou University received a lot of support in the past, but when I came back, it was somewhat stagnant. President, in cooperation with Suwon City, we started by laying artificial turf on campus. We formed a support group and organized a front desk. “We started with the intention of having fun,” he said. “We held an event and invited soccer players, and it was a huge hit. Nearly 2,000 people came to this year’s home opening game. “It’s getting bigger every year,”온라인카지노 he said with a laugh. Even players who were unfamiliar at first are now shaking off the pressure and enjoying themselves.

Coach Ha said, “It is not easy for college students to become interested in just one sports team. It is necessary to provide a variety of interesting things. “I try to help people relieve stress through soccer,” he explained.

At the same time, we are making a lot of efforts externally. Coach Ha took up the position of Vice President of the Korea Football Association last May and has been speaking out for school football and elite players. He said, “We are visiting elementary and middle school games to check if there are any problems. He is in talks with the Korea Professional Football League as well as the Korea Football Association. In the long term, K League 1 should operate with about 16 teams. “Only then can the players’ options expand,” he said emphatically.

◆ Looking at the Asian Games

Coach Ha participated in the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games during his active career and placed 4th. At the time, he faced Uzbekistan in the semifinals and played an overwhelming game, but suffered a collapse after one mistake. He said, “At the time, the atmosphere was good because we beat Japan in the quarterfinals. He overpowered his 4-strength opponent, but was defeated by one mistake. He truly felt that a single fight was scary. “I still remember it vividly,” he said. He said, “Currently, our players have a clear motivation to be exempt from military service. “It’s a situation where we have no choice but to work hard even if we don’t tell the players,” he said with a laugh.

Only athletes under the age of 23 can participate in the Asian Games and Olympics (the Hangzhou Games, which were postponed by a year, are comprised of athletes under the age of 24). The wild card, which selects three players regardless of age, was introduced at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Director Ha was Korea’s first wild card along with Hwang Seon-hong and Lee Im-saeng. He said, “It was very burdensome at the time. He did not try to be authoritarian with young players and tried to become friendly with them quickly. “Now that times have changed, I think they will lead better than us.”

He also sent a message of support to Director Hwang, with whom he had been in a relationship for a long time. Coach Ha said, “Coach Hwang has also played wild cards, so he will know what is needed. He has a lot of experience, but he will also feel pressure. “He will prepare more than anyone else, so I hope he can play the soccer he wants to play well and win a gold medal to return home,” he said. “The opponent will know that our country is strong and will lower the defensive line to hold on. “If you don’t let those things stop you, you can do well,” he said, raising his voice.

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