This year has seen several female athletes shine for South Korea, led by Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na. In the FIFA U-17 Women`s World Cup that wrapped this weekend, Yeo Min-ji earned the Golden Shoe as leading scorer and Golden Ball as the tournament`s top player. Teammate Jang Seul-gi became another instant hero by slotting in the winning shot.
Korea Republic beat Japan – a women’s soccer powerhouse – 5-4 in a penalty shootout, the last act in a thrilling final packed with goals and drama. The young Taegeuk Ladies showed that they are South Korea`s hope by winning the second edition of the biennial FIFA tournament.
People in South Korea were greatly impressed – as they should be – by the team`s hard-earned victory Sunday morning. Given the poor conditions of women`s soccer in South Korea, the wjn is nothing short of a miracle. In 1990, the South`s first women`s soccer team was hastily assembled for the Beijing Asian Games, and suffered a crushing 13-1 loss to Japan. This victory of Korea`s Under-17 team has more than avenged that defeat to Japan 20 years later.
South Korea has just 65 women`s soccer teams, including 16 at the high school level. The only hope for success was the emergence of young girls who received early training and sympathetic leadership, and who enjoyed the sport. The players learned the basics, strategies and tactics of soccer on youth teams. The under 17 team overcame a glaring weakness in South Korean soccer – scoring ability – through early training. Team coach Choi Duck-joo can be credited with the victory and his emotional leadership of sensitive teenage girls.
While South Koreans firmly believed that soccer was a man`s sport, nine-year-old girls took to the field after watching the 2002 World Cup. They trained harder after watching with envy Park Ji-sung’s rise as a global star. Amid a new generation in South Korea that is seeing the country on the verge of joining the advanced group of economies, the players played with confidence under any circumstance. They never lost their pace even in tough situations.
Sports represent national power. Good results are impossible without the proper investment and assistance. Also helpful was investment by the (South) Korea Football Association, which was motivated by the success of Japan and North Korea, two countries whose players are similar in physical condition as South Korea`s. Since soccer requires not only individual capacity but also teamwork and cooperation, this victory is all the more meaningful. This is a proof positive reminder that an individual, or even a country can do anything if it never gives up.
The next U-17 Women’s World Cup will take place in Azerbaijan and it will continue the tradition of developing the women’s game throughout the world. FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter was quoted on the eve of the 2010 final: “Football can liberate women; it is not just a macho thing anymore. I said in 1995 that the future of football is feminine and I still believe that.”
adidas Golden Ball and Golden Shoe winner Yeo Min Ji added this: “My goal is a big one – I want to be the best women’s player in the world. I want Korea Republic to become a major force not just in Asia but in the world at senior level. I sensed that this dream was beginning to come true when we scored our winning penalty kick, and it made me cry.”
You goal – girl!