SHENZHEN, China -- South Korean football legend Cha Bum-kun said Thursday that Asian nations need to compete with each other to develop the sport as he eyes an expansion of his youth football project across the continent.
Cha will launch “Team Chaboom Plus Project” in Shenzhen, 2,000 kilometers south of Beijing, with the help of a sports organization under China‘s CITIC Group. The 65-year-old is familiar with the Chinese city as he managed Shenzhen Ping An in 1998 after he was sacked from the South Korean national team coaching job during the World Cup in France.
“If you look at Europe, the countries there competed fiercely in football and that gave positive energy to each of them,” Cha told reporters in Shenzhen. “Not only South Korea and Japan but other Asian countries need to develop and compete with each other.”
South Korean football legend Cha Bum-kun (Yonhap)
Cha said the fundamentals of development come from youth football and that’s why he has been focusing on fostering young talents. His project started in South Korea last year, but now he wants to take it to the Asian level, starting with China.
“We start from South Korea and China, but hopefully, we can expand this project and find prospects across Asia,” he said. “I hope that after 10 years, each Asian country can have a player like Son Heung-min.”
Team Chaboom Plus Project aims to offer the country‘s top football prospects a chance to play against German Bundesliga youth teams. For his project in China, Cha said his side signed a five-year deal with officials in Shenzhen and will send 22 youth footballers to Germany.
Cha emphasize that he wants Asian youth footballers to gain international experience from a young age.
“What I learned from this project is that young players’ confidence went up sky-high after they beat Germans of their age,” he said. “When talented prospects experience big stages from a young age they play better and better.”
Cha said he watched closely how players from football powerhouses performed at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and again emphasized the importance of youth programs.
“Their skills and techniques can‘t be built in a day because those things are made through consistent training from their youth days,” he said. “You can’t feel the sense of the ball control after you get old. South Korean football‘s problem comes from a lack of youth development.”
Cha is one of the greatest football players that South Korea has ever produced. He holds the national team records for most appearances, with 136, and most goals, with 59. Known for his pace and power, Cha starred in the German Bundesliga from 1978 to 1989, netting 98 goals in 308 matches. He won two UEFA Cups, one each with Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen.
Cha said he started to pay attention to youth football after he saw Japan’s youth system during his visit to the Asian neighbor in 1978.
“I was surprised that young Japanese players were training hard to beat South Korea,” he said. “I thought that Japan could one day easily surpass South Korea in football and that‘s when I realized the importance of youth football and started creating a youth football clinic.”
Cha said he joined forces with Chinese capital to pursue his youth football project after he failed to find a sponsor in South Korea.
“I wanted to help footballers in middle school to compete against Europeans, but I couldn’t find a sponsor,” he said. “When I receive speaking requests from South Korean companies, I told them that I could do it for free, but I asked if they can sponsor my youth football project. However, I have yet to receive any (positive) answers.” (Yonhap)