BUSAN, South Korea – If the world was ruled by “poetic justice”, we would have been graced with what could have been one of the most watched soccer matches in Asian history. With the 2010 World Cup fast approaching, many teams are restructuring or vying for new coaches to enhance their bid for success. One noteworthy individual who recognizes essential skills and has a unique perspective is former Korean National team coach, and Korea 2002 World Cup legend, Guus Hiddink.
Currently, Guus Hiddink is finishing up with the Russian National team in June and preparing for his move to Turkey in August. In the meantime, we have the World Cup, leaving a window of opportunity that many teams have been trying to take advantage of. One such team that has been aggressively shopping around for coaches is Côte d'Ivoire.
After being unfortunately drawn into the “Group of Death” (Group G), compounded with a year of coaching issues, these problems have made the team push to hire the magical Hiddink to bolster their chances.
The other teams in Group G include Brazil, Portugal, and North Korea. While most would agree that Brazil and Portugal are going to be tough teams to defeat, it would be naive to overlook North Korea. True, it has been 44 years since they last appeared in the World Cup; but when they did, they sure left their mark. Beating Italy in the preliminary round was considered the biggest upset of the tournament. That benchmark is one that they would gladly like to replicate this year.
Honestly, no one really wants to lose to the Norkos, but if you do beat them…they might accuse you of poisoning their people.
Imagine now, that the world IS ruled by “poetic justice”. What we would have in this imaginary world of ours is Côte d'Ivoire coached by Guus Hiddink (first-ever foreigner to be named honorary Korean citizen I should mention) facing off against North Korea on June 25th, 2010. Ponder that date while I mention that, sadly, Guus Hiddink has recently stated that while he was contemplating the job, the Russian National team was unwilling to release him from his contract earlier than June 30th. As a result, Côte d'Ivoire has signed on Sven-Goran Ericksson.
Now, consider again that date in your mental calendar and realize that June 25th, 1950 was the day the Korean War began. Coincidentally, this match, 60 years to the date, would essentially have been South Korea vs. North Korea once again. A sort of rematch without all the interference of the U.N.
Understandably, Guus Hiddink is only an honorary citizen, but still chances like this almost never happen and I almost consider it a shame that we were denied a match that from the first second of play would have been written of in the history books for time eternal –at least here in Korea.
Then again, he could be coaching the North Koreans as they continue their pursuit for a high-profile coach that guarantees them a first-round win and that is a whole other can of worms. But as the clock counts down to the World Cup, it is likely that we will hear more and more rumors that may or may not have any basis in reality and might just be the hopeful thinking of some journalist out there in Internetland.
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