Soccer federation announces “Korean residency is a contract condition,” but is there a reason for Klinsmann’s ‘haste’?

“I made it a condition of my contract that I live in South Korea for the duration of my tenure.”

It was February. The Korean Football Association (KFA) announced the appointment of Jürgen Klinsmann (GER) as the new head coach of the national soccer team, explaining that the contract included a “Korean residency condition”. The KFA has cleared up the controversy as one of the important criteria for the appointment of a new coach, as was the case with former coach Paulo Bento (Portugal).

Klinsmann himself was asked about it at his inaugural press conference and said that he would be “living in Korea”. It was later confirmed by a KFA official that he had closed on a house in Seoul. Up until that point, it appeared that Klinsmann’s stay in Korea was already contractually agreed upon, as the KFA had initially announced.

But as time went on, things took a strange turn. Klinsmann, who showed his enthusiasm by visiting the K League from the moment he arrived, spent more and more time traveling to the United States or Europe, where he was based. In the first six months of his tenure, he spent only 67 days in Korea. At a time when he should have been traveling to the K League to observe domestic players, Klinsmann spent more time at home conducting interviews abroad about the European soccer transfer market. This was the background of the so-called home-away-from-home controversy.

At one point, Klinsmann even eliminated the press conference to announce the roster. His proposal was to hold an interview on the first day of the call-up, as the roster would be announced a week after the call-up, and the roster could change in the meantime. The KFA accepted Klinsmann’s suggestion. After skipping the press conference, Klinsmann headed straight to Europe to attend the UEFA Champions League group stage draw, sparking another controversy.

The KFA’s lukewarm response to Klinsmann’s controversy further enraged fans. The KFA failed to respond strongly to the criticism of the national team manager’s complacent work style by demanding that he return home. In the meantime, it became a “truth battle” over whether Klinsmann had a domestic residency requirement when he signed his contract. In an interview before the September A match, Klinsmann said that no one told him that he had to stay in Korea when he was hired. This is in direct contradiction to the KFA’s explanation when they first announced Klinsmann’s appointment, which stated that residency in Korea was a condition of the contract.

It’s unlikely that Mr. Klinsmann was unaware of this, given that he himself mentioned domestic residency during his inaugural press conference. This is why Klinsmann seems to have changed his tune. However, given his recent assertion in an online interview with South Korean media that “I think it’s an exaggeration to say that I don’t live in South Korea,” it’s possible that the criteria for working in South Korea were not clear in the first place, or that there was no domestic residency requirement at all. His explanation that he would be “residing in Korea” when he took over may not have been part of his contract with the KFA, but rather his future plans and commitments as a national team coach. If Klinsmann’s allegations are true, then the KFA’s announcement that he had signed a contract that required him to live in Korea for the duration of his tenure would be false.

The key question is whether the contract between the KFA and Klinsmann included anything about living in Korea. If there is, and there is evidence that there is, then Klinsmann is in breach of contract. The KFA has the ability to refute Klinsmann’s claims, and if the controversy arises, they can openly ask him to return home or even unilaterally terminate his employment based on a breach of contract. However, if there is no specific provision in the contract for domestic residency, or if there was no agreement at all, then the problem grows. Whether Klinsmann continues to change his mind or stays abroad for longer, the KFA has no grounds to react. Given that Klinsmann has steadfastly remained abroad in the face of criticism, and given the KFA’s past responses to Klinsmann’s controversies, the latter cannot be ruled out.

There is only one way for the KFA to absolve itself of any responsibility for Klinsmann’s stay-at-home controversy. Instead of hiding behind the controversy, the KFA should clarify what it said at the time of the announcement of the new coach’s appointment, that “it was a condition of his contract that he reside in Korea for the duration of his tenure” and the basis for it. If, on the other hand, there is no contractual basis for requiring Klinsmann to live in Korea, or even anything related to domestic residency, then Klinsmann’s stay-at-home controversy will inevitably turn into a controversy about the KFA’s mismanagement. This means that even if Klinsmann stays abroad for a longer period of time and maintains his current working arrangement, the KFA will continue to be a “pawn in the hands” of the KFA. 스포츠토토






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