Korean foot­ball All-Stars lose to Viet­nam

The Korea Times - - SPORTS - By John Duer­den john.duer­den@gmail.com

The K League All-Star game is an an­nual tra­di­tion, al­though this year it was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent be­cause the ac­tion took place in Viet­nam.

The best play­ers as voted on by the fans in the league so far this sea­son, lost 1-0 to Viet­nam’s Un­der-23 na­tional team at My Dinh Sta­dium in Hanoi on Satur­day.

The All-Star con­cept changes from time to time. Some­times it is a game be­tween play­ers from teams from the north­ern part of the coun­try tak­ing on their south­ern-based coun­ter­parts.

There have been games against a Ja­panese equiv­a­lent, and, in 2010, a game against mighty Barcelona with Lionel Messi caus­ing havoc in a first-half cameo.

When the games are all-Korean, they are lots of fun. The goal-scor­ing cer­e­monies are ex­tremely well ex­e­cuted and worth the en­trance fee alone.

When the games are against for­eign op­po­si­tion, they are a lit­tle more se­ri­ous. This is partly be­cause it is dif­fi­cult to know how much the teams from over­seas would be amused by some of the usual all-star an­tics and some­times be­cause na­tional pride can come into play.

In the case of Viet­nam, the host team is pre­par­ing for the South­east Asian Games in Au­gust, a very big deal in that part of the world. The chance to play some of the big­gest tal­ent from the K League was a wel­come op­por­tu­nity in­deed. It was a fine part of prepa­ra­tions for the up­com­ing tour­na­ment. The rea­son Viet­nam was cho­sen was all down to one man: Luong Xuan Truong. The Vietnamese in­ter­na­tional mid­fielder plays for Gang­won FC. He is ac­tu­ally an of­fi­cial ambassador for Korea to his home­land. Given the num­ber of Kore­ans who travel to Viet­nam these days, he is do­ing a fine job.

The K League is also try­ing to in­crease its pro­file and fan base in Viet­nam in hopes that more fans there will watch Korean foot­ball. View­ing fig­ures in Viet­nam for K League games have been en­cour­ag­ing but they would be higher if Xuan Truong played more.

He ar­rived at In­cheon United last year, but was rarely fea­tured. His loan trans­fer to Gang­won FC hinted that more games may be com­ing his way with two ap­pear­ances in July. It re­mains to be seen if the 22-year-old will get more money. He is tal­ented enough, but there is a cer­tain skep­ti­cism among K League coaches, a con­ser­va­tive bunch, that South­east Asians are not good, strong or hard-work­ing enough.

That no­tion should have been dis­pelled on Satur­day be­cause the Korean All-Stars lost 1-0 and de­servedly so. The only goal came in the sec­ond half. With 20 min­utes re­main­ing, Nguyen Van Toan’s shot de­flected off Kim Jin-su into the net.

It was a tough and com­pet­i­tive match, which was what the Vietnamese wanted. The Korean team had chances, but was con­stantly forced back by the fast-run­ning, hard-work­ing and tal­ented hosts.

The Kore­ans may well re­turn to South­east Asia as they seek new fans and mar­kets.

Yon­hap

Korean foot­baller Kim Shin-uk, be­hind, fights for the ball with a Vietnamese player dur­ing a game against the South­east Asian coun­try’s Un­der-23 na­tional team at My Dinh Sta­dium in Hanoi on Satur­day.

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