I smell the sea as I exit the long highway. The waterfront can be seen through the gaps between the passing buildings. The sun is high and hot. The whistle blows long. A loud voice announces the start of training. Directed by Ahn Ik-soo.
After training in the late afternoon, the FC Seoul team had dinner. According to the manager of the team, coach Ahn Ik-soo and the coaching staff hold meetings until late at night after dinner every day. It is about reviewing training and planning training for the next day. Since the interview was held after dinner, I thought it would be an hour at most. The venue was decided at the rooftop bar of the athletes’ hotel.
Director Ahn Ik-soo says, “Hey~ I’m here for the first time.” In a hotel famous for its auxiliary facilities, he never leaves the lobby, restaurant, or meeting room. At 8 p.m., coach Ahn Ik-soo, club staff, and three reporters sat down and started the interview. The seat lasted exactly four hours. The story repeated expansion and contraction from FC Seoul to the K-League and Korean soccer. The mango juice on the table was already separated from the water and juice, so I couldn’t taste it anymore.
* always learning
Director Ahn Ik-soo is an unusual case. He started playing football when he was in high school, won the K-League championship, and made it to the final entry for the FIFA World Cup. He wanted to know more about soccer, so he got a Ph.D., and he went around England, Germany, and Japan because he wanted to see more about soccer. It means that he has both talent and willingness to learn. There is no way someone like this could have skipped the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“I watched all the games that were broadcast until 4:00 in the morning. (Showing memo on smartphone) After the World Cup, I summarized 17 points. The games that we can use are currently being analyzed by the analysis team as learning materials. I plan to share that data with the players in Kagoshima, Japan, saying, ‘This is how we play soccer’.”
Who was the most impressive team among the World Cup participating countries? Which team is coach Ahn Ik-soo aiming for? To the question of wanting an exact name, the answer came back: “It is different for each part.” “Argentina seems technical, but the defense is quite tough. He was organized while knowing how to play defense that harasses the opposing striker. Croatia’s three midfielders were similar to us in changing positions. Spain uses a 4-1-4-1 like us, with the midfielders widening the attack. France builds up by creating a back 3 with the wingbacks staying behind. There are also lessons to be learned from Morocco. We continue to press forward, but Morocco presses in a rhythm. While slowing down the opponent’s attack tempo, lead them into a self-defense pattern. We want to update those parts.”
The story of the World Cup inevitably flows through comparison. The superiority and inferiority are divided on the top of the Korean and world-class, K-League and European leagues. Can the soccer we saw in the World Cup be practiced in FC Seoul or the K-League? When asked this question, director Ahn Ik-soo threw out the word ‘root’. Then he lamented the fact that his roots were shaking at FC Seoul, which he returned to after 10 years. It’s a story about the foundation.
“Thanks to the sound roots of France, Croatia, Argentina, and Brazil, even in situations where decisions are made within 5 or 6 World Cup games, they are bearing fruit while playing soccer as they have been doing so far. This is possible because the roots are strong. Currently, Seoul is in a situation where its roots are weak. For example, there is no data to be used as a criterion for evaluating players’ condition. There is no scout curriculum and it does not go back systematically. It’s just a way to look at him and say, “He’s fine.” In 2010, the youth clinic had about 5,500 people. At that time, there were the most spectators. Now the average spectator has dropped to the 9,000 level. Without fans, there are problems with sponsors, and the preparation of the players becomes insufficient. It spends the same budget, but it is less effective.”
“In 2010, FC Seoul had an enterprising passion. Now, how to say, only bad words come to mind. Experience is a great asset. Experience is a resource from which new parts are conceived. However, if the experience is wrong, it becomes tolerance. I once said that when I came to the clubhouse, only trees grew. I think FC Seoul is the club that represents Korean soccer. You have to play soccer that gives a social message. A virtuous cycle structure that looks forward to 5 or 10 years should be created. Grades are important right now, but we need more of that culture and environment.”
Coach Ahn Ik-soo also knows the importance of a score that fans can understand. After his first season, he was told by Chairman Huh Tae-soo, 메이저사이트 “Don’t think about winning, but play customer-oriented soccer.” He is also well aware of the reality that grades come out when culture is established, and that there is a justification for forming a culture only when grades are guaranteed. So he emphasizes again and again the responsibility, role and social message of FC Seoul.
“Chairmen Heo Chang-soo and Heo Tae-soo always emphasize customer-centeredness. Customers are fans who visit the stadium. For a lot of fans to come, first of all, performance is important. Fans are already at eye level with the Premier League. You have to make an effort to follow it. Players should be afraid of their fans. I have talked about salaries to players in the past. For example, where does the annual salary of 300 million won come from? The monthly royalty per GS Shop store is about 2 million won. When 150 shops pay full royalties, that money becomes a player’s annual salary. He talked about why he had to train hard and why he had to do his best in Sangam. After finishing the story, I laughed when I heard from the back, ‘Isn’t the director giving you money?’
“I hope FC Seoul is a little different. FC Seoul should become a leading club. Something has to be given. Rather than changing the coach in a short period of time, we need to create a culture where a leader who has been trained since the Osan youth team can take on the role of a professional team coach. Look at Germany’s Jurgen Klopp and Julian Nagelsmann. It gives me a dream that if I try hard, I can go up there too. In Korea, you can never become a professional coach unless you become a pro. If there is a leader who can grow up in youth and complete FC Seoul’s football, he has to coach a professional team. Why? Because it’s FC Seoul. Because it is a club that has to lead Korean football.”
It was in the same context that I paid my respects at the National Cemetery before leaving for winter training. It’s about knowing what the players are playing for. “I went to the National Cemetery before coming here. At first, the reaction was why I had to go there. After I went and listened to the explanation, the atmosphere became really solemn. There are many dead and missing people whose names are unknown. Indeed, we must clearly know why we live with the FC Seoul emblem. The reason we sacrifice and devote ourselves is ‘for FC Seoul’ and ‘for the fans’.”