In 2007, Choi Yon-Kyum, head coach of South Korea’s Daejeon Citizen, went for a drink with his assistant and ended up attacking him with a beer glass. The victim needed 18 stitches. Although the CEO and most fans wanted Choi to stay, he left the K-League club to join the coaching staff at a Turkish club. It provided a rare example of a coach from Asia trying his luck in Europe.
The world’s biggest continent has started sending its players to the West, but tacticians have yet to follow in their footsteps. Asia is not alone in this – apart from the Brazilians and a smattering of other South Americans, coaches from Africa and North America are not exactly flooding Europe. One day this will change, but the questions for Asia are when, how and, of course, who.
Park Ji-Sung recently said that it may take only ten years for an Asian team to win the World Cup, but it may take longer to see Koreans, Japanese or Iranians jabbing fingers in the direction of Sir Alex Ferguson and answering post-match questions from Sky Sports reporters. The timing is not yet right – a quick look around reveals that. When you have many Asian nations preferring to appoint foreign coaches over domestic talent, getting noticed overseas can be next to impossible.
China, currently the most talked about and highest-attended league in the continent, trusts its own coaching stock so little that the new season started with all but three of the 16 clubs in the top-flight in foreign hands. Excited as it was about the new campaign, even the Beijing media found time to fret about the lack of opportunities as well as the money handed to the locals. At the start of the season, Jean Tigana and his staff at Shanghai Shenhua were getting paid around 40 times more than Zhu Jiong and his crew at local rivals Shenxin. Shanghai may showcase the rising economic inequality in China more starkly than any other Chinese city, but this was going too far.
At least Chinese clubs do their bit for Asia, if not the Middle Kingdom, by issuing work visas to a number of Korean coaches – who historically have travelled farther and wider around the continent than their Asian counterparts – as well as the occasional Australian and Japanese boss. That is not the case when it comes to the big clubs in Dubai, Riyadh, Doha and Abu Dhabi. The Arabian giants of West Asia look to Europe and South America as a matter of course. Just two domestic coaches finished the season in the Saudi top-flight, a pattern that is repeated across much of the region.
Even those Asian coaches who have enjoyed success on the global stage struggle for global recognition. In the modern era, only two have taken teams past the first round of the World Cup, but neither Huh Jung-Moo of South Korea and Japan’s Takeshi Okada ever really appeared on the European radar. Adnan Hamad is perhaps the most-respected Asian coach but the Iraqi is even less well-known internationally.
Last summer, ESPN asked Lee Young-Pyo, the South Korean star who played for PSV Eindhoven, Tottenham Hotspur, Borussia Dortmund and now Vancouver Whitecaps, if an Asian coach could make it to the big leagues. “At the moment, European footballers don’t want to learn or listen to an Asian coach, but 15 or 20 years later, when Europe accepts that Asian football is strong, it can happen,” Lee said. “For example, at Tottenham, if I talked to youth players and gave them advice, they listened to me, but if I wasn’t playing in the first team, they would never have listened. When we develop more and can teach something to European players then it can change, but not now.”
The export of players to Europe can be the catalyst. This is how to catch the attention of western CEOs, journalists, fans and players. Asian coaches have barriers to overcome but, if they have been successful in Europe as a player, many are removed.
Park Ji-Sung could be the one. Seven seasons and serious success at Manchester United under Ferguson was preceded by over four years with Guus Hiddink at PSV Eindhoven and South Korea. A European, English and Dutch champion, not to mention World Cup semi-finalist, Park, already lauded for his tactical intelligence, would surely have no problem getting the dressing room to listen. Unfortunately, he is…
Korean soccer icon Young-Pyo Lee’s unlikely goal off a 21-yard free kick gave the Vancouver Whitecaps a 1-0 win Saturday over the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer play in Columbus, Ohio.
The goal came against the run of play as Lee’s lofting strike, which was meant for the head of a Caps teammate, fooled Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum in the 74th minute.
It brought back memories of Ronaldinho’s long, floating free-kick goal that beat English goalkeeper David Seaman in the 2002 World Cup.
Lee said he was trying to put the ball near the far post.
“It was a lucky goal for me and for the team,” he said. “I tried for a strong cross but I scored.”
New coach Martin Rennie has a wealth of options on the attacking end, with Sébastien Le Toux, Eric Hassli, Camilo, Davide Chiumiento, 2012 #2 pick overall Darren Mattocks,2011 #1 pick overal Omar Salgado, Atiba Harris, Long Tan and Lee Nguyen, among others in a crowded field. “It isn’t possible to get them all on the field at the same time,” Rennie says, “but I don’t necessarily see Sébastien as a wide player. I think he can play wide, but he can also play through the middle. What you’re going to need over the course of the season is a few different guys who can pop up with goals. We’ve got that firepower and competition for places, which is good, and a number of our attacking players can play in different positions.”
Vancouver also signed long-time Korean National Team player Lee Young-pyo. And then there’s Japanese-born Jun Marques Davidson. That makes 4 asians on a professional North American team. Vancouver starts the season in the MLS season opener on March 10th.
Lee Nguyen’s last match stateside was arguably the biggest of his career — an appearance for the United States in a 2007 friendly against China in San Jose.
And now, after a weighted lottery allocated the Dallas native to the Vancouver Whitecaps earlier this month, his next showing could prove more crucial than his last. “It’s definitely top two if not one of my biggest (games),” Nguyen said in a phone interview with the Toronto Sun Wednesday. “My first time really playing back (in North America).”
Largely absent after plying his trade in southeast Asia the past few seasons, he’s hoping to re-establish himself when the ‘Caps open against the expansion Montreal Impact in a nationally televised affair on March 10 at B.C. Place. With so much attention given to the lottery that gifted Vancouver the former U.S. international over a host of interested clubs — including Toronto FC — supporters in the Pacific northwest will likely have Nguyen on a short-leash after the expansion Whitecaps finished bottom of the MLS table in 2011. “I’m looking forward to it,” Nguyen said, when asked about the reality of playing in one of Major League Soccer’s biggest markets. “I love playing in an atmosphere like Vancouver … I want that pressure.”
But it’s the unconventional road Nguyen has travelled that has many questioning the kind of influence the creative attacker will have during the grind that is MLS — a challenge he says he’s ready for as he looks to earn stability for the first time in his career. “I’m looking to earn a spot in Vancouver and hopefully have a long career there. I’ve talked to Martin Rennie … and they’re excited to see me in preseason and what I have to offer. I’m looking forward to it.” After leaving NCAA powerhouse Indiana after his freshmen year, Nguyen joined PSV Eindhoven in 2006. As he struggled to receive first-team minutes in the Netherlands, he moved to Randers of Denmark two years later. Although he made 22 appearance in the Danish top flight, he failed to stick a second time and left the club in early 2009. “I was looking for playing time,” Nguyen said. “(I) went to Denmark and did well there, but my contract was coming up and I was just looking for something new. Vietnam came and I went that route.”
A two-year stint in Asia would see Nguyen become the first American to play in Vietnam amid an apparent deal with FC Dallas falling through along the way. “(Dallas) broke down once we got into contract talks,” Nguyen said, when asked about the terms of his prior effort to return to North America. “It broke down in the negotiation process.” Nguyen knows Toronto had decent odds (38.3%) of acquiring him earlier this month. Although he left the U.S. before any of the league’s three Canadian clubs were in existence, he has followed MLS to the extent he knows what to expect when players report for preseason. “I’ve seen Vancouver on highlights … Toronto a couple of times when they were in town to play FC Dallas,” Nguyen said. “I like their styles and the way they play because they try and pass it around. I think (Vancouver) will fit well.”
The Whitecaps might have found a playmaker to be the missing link between the club’s backs and forwards. “I’m more of that creative midfielder,” Nguyen said. “I create chances for my teammates and I try and put people in scoring positions.” With target man Eric Hassli, winger Davide Chumiento and Camilo in desperate need of a composed mind in the middle of the park, with the addition of World Cup veteran Lee Young-Pyo at the back, Nguyen might be the final piece Vancouver needs to help last year’s bottom feeders compete for a first ever Canadian playoff birth. “I’m also very dangerous around the box and I can also create for myself,” Nguyen said, in response to his abilities as a player. “My goal is to win a starting spot with Vancouver and help them win games. I think my playing will do the talking.”
A return to Canada and the States also presents U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann a platform to consistently watch a player who fell out of favour with former bench boss Bob Bradley.
“Klinsmann has talked to my agent and they just want to see me play,” Nguyen said. “I just hope if I’m playing and he’s watching that he likes what he sees.”
With Vancouver looking to rebound from a disappointing inaugural season and Nguyen hoping to re-energize a career, all eyes will be on the Whitecaps, and their newest acquisition, when next season opens with an all-Canadian first kick.
Lee Nguyen’s appearance with the USA National Team,
The Vancouver Whitecaps have won the lottery to acquire winger/forward Lee Nguyen, who most recently played professional football in Vietnam. Ngyuen won three caps with the United States men’s national team in 2007, playing in one friendly and two Copa America matches while contracted to PSV Eindhoven. Nguyen then moved on to play for Randers FC in Denmark for one year before moving to Vietnam.
Nguyen scored almost once every other game while playing in the V-League, but the standard of play is not exceptionally high. While Nguyen is generally regarded as a quick and technically skilled player, he’s small even by the standards of modern football wingers and does not have extensive experience in professional leagues at or above the level of MLS. Sources tell SB Nation that Nguyen will be making less than $60k this season. Vancouver had a 47.6 percent chance of landing Nguyen in the lottery, the best odds of all of the teams who participated.
Nguyen will join Long Tan and newly acquired Lee Young-pyo as the other asians on the team. Vancouver will open the MLS season on March 10, 2012 against the expansion team Montreal Impact.
Former South Korea international Lee Young-pyo has signed for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the United States’ Major League Soccer. Lee Young-pyo spent three years at Tottenham, making 70 league appearances
The ex-PSV Eindhoven, Tottenham Hotspur and Borussia Dortmund left-back had a number of offers from various countries but arrived in Canada on Sunday to sign a one-year contract for the club, starting in January, with the option of extending for one year.
“I’ve been impressed with the professional of the club and how it is run,” Lee told reporters in Korea . “From next year, I will do my best to help my new team get some good results.”
Lee, 34, left Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal in the summer and was considering whether to retire or head overseas again.
The versatile player, who is comfortable on either side of defence or midfield, played 127 times for his country during which he appeared at three World Cups before retiring from the international game after January’s 2011 AFC Asian Cup.
Lee Young-pyo joins striker Long Tan as the other asian on the club.