Cha, arguably South Korea's best footballer ever, said he believes that the men's national football team can overcome its current crisis by learning from Germany, the defending FIFA World Cup champions and current No. 1 in the world.
South Korea managed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, but football fans have been up in arms over their performance in recent matches. Since head coach Shin Tae-yong took the helm in July, South Korea have yet to collect a win. In 2017, the Taeguk Warriors have won only once.
"As someone from the football community, I first want to say sorry to fans and those who worry about South Korean football," Cha said during a press conference for the German Bundesliga Legends Tour in Seoul. "As a person who worries about South Korean football, I believe our exchange with German Bundesliga would help us, so that's why I accepted the Bundesliga Legend role."
|South Korean football legend Cha Bum-kun speaks during a press conference for the German Bundesliga Legends Tour at a Seoul hotel Nov. 2, 2017. (Yonhap)|
Cha is one of the 10 international Bundesliga legends selected by the German Football League, known as Deutsche Fussball Liga in German. The 64-year-old, who hung up his boots in 1989, is the greatest Asian-born goal scorer in Bundesliga history with 98 goals in 308 matches.
The powerful forward for SV Darmstadt 98, Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer 04 Leverkusen played in Germany between 1979 and 1989, winning the UEFA Cup twice, as well as the German Cup.
Cha said South Korea and Germany have similar characteristics.
"South Koreans don't give up easily and have the strength to fight until the end," he said. "These are good things in football and helped us to become one of the top teams in Asia. They are also similar to Germans' fighting spirit, and that's why I believe German football is suitable for us."
Cha said South Korea should learn from what Germany went through after the 2000 UEFA European Football Championship. Germany suffered a group stage exit at Euro 2000, with one draw and two losses.
"Germans were devastated like us in 2000, but now they're the world champions," he said. "Germany has since focused on developing youth players and raising young coaches to help them. We have to benchmark what Germans did after Euro 2000."
Cha said he will talk with youth football coaches across the nation and will ask for help from the Korea Football Association and the DFL.
"We see a decreasing number of youth footballers and coaches, and this is a significant problem," he said. "Germans have an educational approach and system. Like the Germans transformed themselves after 2000, it's time for us to also make a change."
Cha, who also coached the South Korean national team at the 1998 World Cup, urged South Korea to forget about their past glory with Guss Hiddink, who led the team to the 2002 World Cup semifinals."
"How long do we have to bring in foreign coaches and talk about Hiddink," he said. "We have to give an opportunity to promising coaches and start raising young coaches. When I see (German national team head coach) Joachim Low, I always think that we have to beef up our programs for coaches."
With a sustainable system for youth footballers in South Korea, Cha said he wants to see a player who can achieve more things than he and Son Heung-min did in the Bundesliga. Son scored 41 goals in 135 matches in the Bundesliga before moving to Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League in 2015.
"I felt a little bit sad when Son left Germany because I thought he would lift the (German league trophy), which I never won," he said. "I hope one day a South Korean player can win the trophy."
Cha said throughout his career, his best decision was to go to the Bundesliga.
"I had nothing else to lose back then and maybe that's why I decided to take the challenge," he said. "The Bundesliga gave me lots of things, and it still feels like a hometown."
Cha will meet with Budesliga fans on Saturday at Seoul World Cup Stadium, where they will watch the match between FC Augsburg and Bayer Leverksuen, and hold various events. (Yonhap)