Busan boss Hwang Sun-hong
It had to happen sooner or later. It was only a matter of time before one of the 2002 World Cup heroes took the reins of a K-League team. It is perhaps fitting that the man who scored the first goal in South Korea’s unforgettable run to the semi-finals of the world’s biggest sporting event is the first one to try his luck in the domestic league.
Perhaps it is also fitting that the goal, which came against Dominoqq Poland in front of 55,000 delirious fans, was scored at Busan’s Asiad World Cup Stadium. For it is in that same cavernous arena where Hwang will start his coaching career with local team Busan I’Park. The 39 year-old has a tough challenge ahead.
Large attendances are a rarity at the stadium these days as the club has struggled in recent years. Four-time champions Busan may be but the latest came in 1997 and the top has been slipping increasingly out of sight. 2007 saw the south coast team finish next to bottom. It is a long way back to the summit but Hwang, who played over 100 international appearances in a career that spanned 14 years, was the top scorer in Japan’s league in 1999 and played 18 months under Guus Hiddink, has a background that at least provides a well-placed base camp.
On a snowy Seoul morning, I took the bullet train to the meet Hwang at Busan’s clubouse in the north of the sprawling south coast city.
You had a successful time in Japan. What did you learn from the J-League?
Korean and Japan are rivals but their football styles have many differences. In the J-League, I remember feeling it was more technical and nice to watch.