Thursday, 13th June 2024

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It’s fun to raise ‘football grandchildren’… 70-year-old Cha Boom’s wise Goheung flesh

“The way they kick the ball is so pretty. Everyone is my lovely grandchildren.”

A smile spread around the mouth of an old man who was watching the game. Cha Bum-keun (70), a former coach of the Korean national soccer team who is celebrating his career in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, this year. Cha, dubbed “the epitome of Korean soccer,” is enjoying teaching children in Goheung, South Jeolla Province. He was just an expression of “age” in front of Cha Boom’s passion for soccer, a soccer player who teaches children as young as his grandchildren.

I met head coach Cha Bum-keun at the FC Cha Boom Football Festival event held at Palyeong Gymnasium in Goheung, South Jeolla Province on the 26th. “I was enjoying my country life in Goheung, and I opened a soccer class (FC Cha Boom) earlier this year,” he said. “It’s been a year since I started teaching soccer twice a week for free to 85 first- to third-graders in the region.”

Goheung County in South Jeolla Province is suffering from a sharp drop in the number of children, just like other farming and fishing villages. Only about 300 elementary school students out of the total population of just over 60,000. About 150 students are in the first to third grades, meaning that half of the elementary school students in Goheung County are learning soccer from Cha. The budget that Goheung County provides for soccer classes is 50 million won (about 9.8 million U.S. dollars) per year. Cha will pay uniforms and soccer shoes to children, and pay for subsidiary expenses such as rental fees for training facilities. Cha Boom Grandfather is also running a weekend league called “League Boom” in Muju, North Jeolla Province. Next year, he plans to run a youth league similar to that of Muju in Yeongdeok, North Gyeongsang Province.

Cha is interested in local children because he realized that soccer can contribute to revitalizing the community. “The social atmosphere in Europe I experienced in Germany was healthy and clear. It was nice to see the whole village enjoying soccer and other sports together, strengthening physical and mental health as well as a sense of community,” he said. “Korea also needs a strategy to revitalize the local community around sports.”

Cha opened a soccer class named after himself in Seoul in 1988 when he was about to retire. After retiring the following year, he refused offers from several German Bundesliga clubs and instead focused on running a soccer class. When most sports, including soccer, were centered on private academies and sports, Cha Bum-kun’s soccer class attracted attention as the first club soccer team in Korea. 안전놀이터

“I visited Japan to participate in the Japan Cup as a member of the Korean national soccer team in the 1980s, and I was shocked to see Japanese children kicking a ball at a grass field near our national team’s training site. Lawn conditions, equipment and training programs were all among the best,” Cha said. “I felt like I was beaten on the head with a hammer after hearing from a local official that I am teaching children in the best environment with the goal of surpassing Korean soccer in 30 years, although it is impossible now.” Cha added, “Since then, I started thinking about introducing a German-style youth soccer club system in Korea for the future of Korean soccer. The result is a soccer class named after me.”

The situation that almost stopped the soccer class, which was operated in Seoul last year, served as an opportunity to focus more on the development of local soccer. “It was dizzying when the renewal of the contract for Ichon Football Stadium, which was running a soccer class, failed and the space to teach 1,500 students disappeared in one morning,” manager Cha said. “I was very impressed to see various soccer players and local residents play in unison to revive the soccer class.” Since then, the winning bidder for Ichon Stadium gave up the operation, and Cha will be able to continue the soccer class at the same place as before.

“Before I went through that situation, there was a moment when I watched Korean soccer, which started as an academy sport, being reorganized around clubs and thought, ‘My job is over now,'” he said. “I realized that I have not yet repaid all the favors I received from Korean soccer through the happening related to the operation of the soccer class. Since then, I have expanded my scope of service to Goheung and Muju instead of staying in Seoul.”

“In the case of soccer classes operated in Seoul, unlike in the past when the number of members changed a lot in midsummer and midwinter, children rarely quit after experiencing a crisis of disbandment,” he said. “I am sorry to hear that the number of people waiting to join the club is close to 2,000. I am seriously considering whether I should scale it up or not.”

In addition to Seoul, which has 1,500 members, Goheung and Muju are running hobby classes instead of fostering elite players to share roles with domestic soccer leaders. “The best way to develop your sense of soccer is to make you realize the joy of playing with the ball in your childhood,” manager Cha said. “That’s all I can do. I want to leave it up to talented junior soccer players to raise talented children as beams of Korean soccer.”

Director Cha, who said he has spent more time in Goheung since last year, said, “I am satisfied with the picturesque natural scenery, my family, and my life that only cares about the children who teach.”

Goheung County, which is running a soccer class in partnership with head coach Cha, is full of expectations for revitalization of the region. Chung Dong-seok, head of the culture and sports department of Goheung County, said, “As word of mouth spreads that Korean soccer legend Cha Bum-keun teaches children himself, more and more people are registering among children in nearby regions to learn soccer.” Choi Kyu-man, head of the Goheung County Sports Promotion Team, said, “We are doing our best to help Coach Cha, who serves in our region, even if it is not enough,” adding, “I would be happy if Goheung County, where Yuja and Naro are widely known, received attention as a center for fostering promising soccer players.”

Seo Jong-yeol, head of Muju-gun’s sports promotion team, who visited to see examples of Goheung-gun’s soccer class operation, said, “Muju, which has been raising its awareness around Taekwondo (Taegwon) and skiing (Muju Resort), is gradually expanding the field of soccer through the ‘Cha Boom League’,” adding, “We will build a ‘football network’ for co-prosperity by actively cooperating with Goheung, centered on coach Cha Bum-keun.”

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