K-LEAGUE CENTER-STAGE!!! Korea's top flight prepare for added attention during the COVID-19 Crisis.
Updated: May 23, 2020
(OTHER K-LEAGUE CONTENT AND K-LEAGUE MATCHDAY EXPERIENCE AND REVIEW ENTRIES FOUND IN BLOG SECTION OF WEBSITE)
Football has returned!!!! Well to some extent after the global football/soccer community and even sports in general for that matter consequently suspended or postponed operations due to the outbreak of the virus, COVID-19. Patience, potential irritability and flat out confusion were common characteristics among fans alike worldwide as the lovers of the beautiful game were left with no other option than to anxiously wait for the resumption of competitions in all levels of football. With most leagues, domestic cups and continental cups all being at various stages in their individual competitions and some not in even started. South Korea's first and second tier the K-League 1 & K-League 2 named respectively on there footballing pyramid resumed a week and a half ago. Already going through two rounds of games heading this weekend into match-week three at the time of writing, continuing to build on the momentum that's already been gained. For some you may already be familiar with the K-League and the dynamic of Korean Football but for some it may just be some form of live football returning. Whatever level of interest you are at this blog entry is a good place to start. Personally I've been connected to the league ever since my time in Korea in the metropolis we all know as Seoul. At the time my love for sports was immense and I began going to FC Seoul games at Seoul World Cup Stadium (Seoul World Cup Stadium matchday experience found in website blog section) instantly making me a fan of Seoul and of the league. After multiple efforts to control the virus eventually lead to a significant decrease in numbers for the time being, Korean authorities ultimately gave the go ahead for training and play to resume. The news hit me with great joy due to seeing the league get extended coverage, more than usual. In this article I'll explain why any football fan worldwide should turn there attention to the best league on the Korean peninsula.
(Here's a picture of me at Jeonbuk Motors stadium last year pointing at a banner showing what titles they've won just wanted to also share that)
South Korea's K-League has been around in a variety of formats since as early as the 1980s but could argue it has never seen recognition the way it is now. Without most major leagues now, the first reason to watch the league is "What other footy are you gonna put on now". Simple but true K-League prior to the Bundesliga starting the following week was by far the highest level of quality out of any league that was already playing or had clear cut plans of returning at the time of announcing the resumption of there season. No disrespect to the Belarussian, Burundi or Nicaraguan league but K-League is just far superior to the leagues mentioned prior. With players and staff carrying their tasks professionally and the South Korean FA operating a two tier system with full promotion and relegation making it unable to receive criticism that usually gets thrown at the MLS or Australia's A-League. Korean teams aren't just being run with stability but also have for awhile with multiple teams having a bit of history. Whether they've been competing for decades or are a phoenix club based off of a previous club with history regardless it's a country that has always had a top tier domestic league with teams then going on to compete in the Asian Club Championship now known as the AFC Champions League.
Getting to this point now with decades of ups and downs it has put Korea at the forefront in terms of players being produced and the center of that talent development is the K-League. Basically what I'm trying to say is the sport has been around in the country for awhile, and yes it was a around prior to South Korea's cohost of the 2002 World Cup where they took the tournament by storm as hosts. Korea has always generated talented players and the K-League isn't the place to steer you away from that statement. Despite a influx of foreign players from Europe and South American clubs eventually coming and being the main teams stars there are teams that are relying on there domestic talent to provide them success. Another thing to add and this might be a stretch but none of the other leagues I mentioned were or ever in EA Sports FIFA series at any stage whereas the K-League has for 15 years, basically saying I don't think EA Sports would add a league that isn't quality.
With the prior being said it lead me into the new reason which is, the K-League isn't some amateur league but one that deserves credit. Son Heung Min in the late 2010s before going to Germany was becoming a regular in the league and star of it prior to making the move to the continent to the left. Vice versa has been done even FC Seoul's Osmar who formerly played for Red Star Belgrade a team at the time were competing in Europe and other clubs in Spain's second tier to come to Seoul where he has stayed for a number of seasons even returning back to Seoul after a number of spells at various Asian clubs. With talent coming in and out of the system it's evident with the league's export numbers scattered across Germany, UK, France, Japan, Belgium, Italy and China all playing significant roles on various clubs in Europe and Asia. Most famously Son Heung Min for Spurs but he isn't the only one with Lee Chung-Yong at Crystal Palace, 2018 World Cup Captain Ki Sung Yueng formerly starting for Newcastle United now plays in LaLiga for RCD Mallocra and Mainz winger Ji Dong-Won the list can go on with other names showcasing there talents at the highest level all coming from Korea's top flight. Well yeah some will say well the best don't stay in there home nation, I also have a rebuttal to that as recent season's in Asia's top club competition indicating Korean teams are right in the mix of competing. With most recently Jeonbuk Hyundai Motor's attributing for the most recent success story to come out of the peninsula in 2016 for there second title. Japan gets probably the most credit for having the best league in East Asia and potentially in Asia for that matter and China's Super League probably the most foreign exposure but Korea had the first team in East Asia to win a continental title in it's most recent format. The title also gave the faithful team of Jeonju the title of being the only team in football history to be crowned Continental champions prior to even being domestic league champions. This being indications that Korea has had a variety of strong sides representing there league internationally, that same season Jeonbuk Motors went on to compete in the FIFA Club World Cup being the first from East Asia as previously mentioned.
Jeonbuk Motors being arguably if not indefinitely the best team in Korean football history and current league champions got the season underway with a weekend kickoff at Jeonju World Cup Stadium against Suwon Bluewings who are the current Korean FA Cup Champions. With minor signs of inefficiencies regarding players physical condition and tactical awareness were shown which made sense as both clubs last competitive fixture was in February in the AFC Champions League. Regardless of that to see the sport I love and a league I love return in such a difficult time for everyone, I'm sure gave a glimpse of hope and light in the end of the tunnel of any FAs, governing bodies, organizations and or for that matter the majority of the world affected. The fixture ended 1-0 for reigning league Champions by a goal from a striker who had a brief spell at Middlesbrough and Werder Bremen and is now the all time leader in goals in the K-league, the forty-one year old Lee Dong-Gook who has been with the club since 2010 winning many honours. Jeonbuk Motors supporters most likely the green army were heard from outside the stadium throughout the live feed which was broadcasted in over 30 countries worldwide making it the highest watched K-League game in history. Jeonbuk Motors Portuguese Manager Morais formerly a assistant to Jose Mourinho under his most famous spells at Inter, Real Madrid and Chelsea made the statement "It is the first time to have such international interest on the league" Morais then followed by saying "For players they have a responsibility to show their best game to the world and show what the league is all about". Basically saying what I've been trying to during this whole article is if there's ever a time to showcase the best a league can offer it's now and with that I think players and staff will know that extra burden is on them now, but I'm sure are accepting the challenges. Nobody will clearly benefit from these unforeseen circumstances but one can also make a bad situation better and/or try to find ways to improve one self, time will only tell if the K-League has done so.