Jürgen Klinsmann (GER) has “finally” stepped foot on South Korean soil. It’s been 45 days since he left the country on March 1. It’s a bittersweet situation that the ‘homecoming’ of the South Korean national soccer team’s head coach, who just finished an A-match friendly, has become a big topic of conversation. However, Klinsmann said it was a new experience for him, as he had rarely been welcomed by so many people when he went abroad. It was a sign that he was either unaware of the negative public opinion or the outpouring of fans, or that he didn’t care.
The news of Klinsmann’s return was not officially announced by the Korean Football Association (KFA) until after 6pm on the 13th. Initially, Klinsmann was scheduled to travel to Germany to watch the Bayern Munich-Bayer Leverkusen match after the two European A match trials against Wales and Saudi Arabia, but he changed his plans and boarded a plane to Korea.
Bittersweetly, the news of the national team’s head coach returning home created a buzz of its own. Contrary to his promise when he took over, Klinsmann had spent only 67 days in Korea since his appointment in March and had been embroiled in a so-called home-and-away controversy. Klinsmann had been criticized for putting the Korean national team on the back burner, giving interviews about European soccer from his home in the United States, skipping the press conference announcing the roster and attending the UEFA Champions League group stage draw.
Terminal 2 at Incheon International Airport on April 14. Klinsmann’s return to Korea was greeted by a much larger than usual media presence, as it was an unusual event for him to step foot on Korean soil. The fairly normal situation of a national team coach returning home after an A-match overseas has become a hot topic. It also meant that things were not going well for Klinsmann and the national team.
Naturally, he should have gotten some idea of the domestic mood and fan sentiment. However, Klinsmann didn’t seem to be aware of this throughout the interview. When asked why he suddenly came to Korea after staying in Europe, he smiled and said, “You guys asked me to come,” and when he was confronted with a large number of reporters, he said, “It’s a new experience to be welcomed by so many people after a friendly match like this.” It was clear that Klinsmann was not aware of the current situation.
The decision to return home was also far from arbitrary. “The KFA told me that when the national team returns from an overseas trip, a lot of reporters are waiting for them. Originally, I was going to watch Bayern Munich’s game against Leverkusen, where Kim Min-jae was playing, but the KFA asked if I could come back with the players and do interviews, so I told them I had no problem changing (my original schedule). We will watch the two games on the weekend after returning home.” The KFA did not ask Klinsmann to return, but rather asked if he could return, and Klinsmann chose to reschedule and return as if it were a good deed.
He even hinted that he plans to leave the country again in the near future, let alone stay in Korea. He said, “I plan to watch two K League games this weekend. I have a schedule to go back and forth (overseas). I have some matches to watch in Europe and other countries,” he explained. The implication is that he might leave the country again after watching the K League games this weekend. It also implied that the return was a one-off rather than an effort to quell the controversy surrounding him.
Klinsmann’s reaction was not limited to the stay-at-home/play-away controversy. Klinsmann had gone five games without a win (three draws and two defeats) in his first five matches before the Wales game. It was a “disgraceful record” for the most games without a win on debut since the introduction of the full-time manager system. The team finally ended the winless streak with a hard-fought victory over Saudi Arabia, ranked 54th in the FIFA rankings (28th in Korea). As well as the dismal results, there have been criticisms of the team’s performance, including Klinsmann’s still-unknown tactics.
Klinsmann, however, took a different view. “I feel good every time we play. I think we can find a lot of positives. I think we have a very positive and improving team atmosphere,” he said, adding, “It’s not long until the Asian Cup. Our reference point is the Asian Cup. We have the confidence and the expectation that we’re going to do well at the Asian Cup and we’re going to do well.” At least in Klinsmann’s eyes, the journey has been a positive one.
Paradoxically, Klinsmann doesn’t seem to care about the controversies that have surrounded his team, such as the stay-at-home vs. play-at-home debate, and has actually called on fans and the media to create a positive public opinion and atmosphere. He also cited the example of his country, Germany, which was eliminated in the group stage at the last World Cup in Qatar. The coach is at the center of all kinds of controversy, the team is not performing well, and the fans and media need to support them.
“A team preparing for a competition needs positive public opinion and positive energy. Only then can we succeed. “No matter how strong you are internally, no matter how positive you are, if there’s negative publicity, if there’s negative stories, the team will falter,” he says. “That’s what happened with Germany at the last World Cup. They were criticized a lot before the World Cup, everything was negative, and they ended up getting knocked out of the World Cup and going home. Creating a positive atmosphere will help the team.” 안전놀이터
He also requested that all criticisms, accusations, and even his job performance be evaluated after the Asian Cup in January next year. He wants to be judged properly at the Asian Cup. He has been chanting about winning the Asian Cup since he took over. “If we don’t do well at the Asian Cup or don’t get the results we want, I think we have enough time to criticize, whether it’s sternly or whatever we do. If the results are not good, we will be tested. That’s the fate of a coach,” he said. The implication is that he will remain at the helm until at least the Asian Cup, and all the controversy surrounding him will continue until then.