When the Korean players celebrated reaching the round of 16 of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, in Malaysia, coach Kim Pan-gon must also have a satisfied smile. It was the 53-year-old man who laid the foundation for the reign of coach Paulo Bento in the Korean team. And it will not be an exaggeration to think that Kim Pan-gon is behind the victory of the kimchi team in Qatar.
The successful creator of Korean football
Back in time, coach Kim Pan-gon was appointed to the position of Vice President of the Korean Football Federation in 2017. At that time, Mr. Kim Pan-gon was assigned an important role, having full authority to appoint the coach of the national team. Korea as well as the coach of this country’s U23 team.
Before playing an important role in the Korean Football Federation, Mr. Kim Pan-gon had a not-so-famous player career. Kim Pan-gon played for Korean clubs such as Ulsan Hyundai, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors as a left winger before going to Hong Kong (China) but did not make any mark.
Due to health problems, Mr. Kim Pan-gon retired from his playing career at the age of 30 and pursued a coaching path. Much of the coach’s career was spent in Hong Kong, where he led the Hong Kong U23 team and then the Hong Kong team.
Due to his remarkable achievements here, especially the gold medal in the 2009 East Asian Games with Hong Kong U23 and 4th place in the 2010 East Asian Football Championship, Mr. Kim Pan-gon was nicknamed. “Hong Kong’s Hiddink”. As a result, coach Kim Pan-gon was “chosen to send gold” when the Korean Football Federation planned to rebuild the national team and the U23 team.
A year after being assigned to the Korean Football Federation, Kim Pan-gon decided to appoint Paulo Bento as the coach of the Korean national team. Meanwhile, coach Kim Hak-bum was assigned to lead the Korean U23.
These are two wise choices of Mr. Kim Pan-gon. Coach Paulo Bento helped the Korean team win against Portugal and had the first time in 12 years to participate in the round of 16 at the last World Cup. Meanwhile, Kim Hak-bum won the 2018 ASIAD gold medal and the 2020 Asian U23 championship with South Korea U23.
Also around this time, U20 Korea won the runner-up position at the U20 World Cup 2019. All with the imprint of Kim Pan-gon.
In an interview with the press at the end of 2018, Mr. Kim Pan-gon clarified his vision and strategy for building Korean football: “Currently, we only focus on getting good results. rather than producing good players. But now things will be different. We will select young talented young talent from the grassroots and provide intensive training so that these young players can soon show their abilities at the age of 17, 18 like in other football powerhouses.”
Kim Pan Gon pointed out the problem of Korean football’s young player training: “Good coaches make good players, but we don’t understand that basic structure properly. Instead of creating good players with age-appropriate methods, we’re just trying to create a team to get good results.”
The Korean Football Federation’s “Golden Age” young talent development project was expanded by Mr. Kim Pan-gon from the range of 14-year-old players to the 9-12-year-old group so as not to miss any raw gems.
When appointing coach Paulo Bento to lead the Korean team in 2018, Kim Pan Gon made it clear that he wanted to change the team’s philosophy of play, which is to switch from defensive kick to counter-attacking to controlling the game.
“I believe that Korean football can only develop in the long run when it follows the global trend. Defensive play can bring results, but it cannot inspire the team to improve. Only when we play football that gives us pride and get good results can we make a step forward for the next development.”
And it’s no surprise that coach Paulo Bento’s South Korean team performed offensive football at the 2022 World Cup, even when they faced a much stronger team, Brazil, in the round of 16.
Many people can criticize coach Paulo Bento for why he did not choose to play defensively in the 1-4 defeat against the samba team. But actually everything was outlined by Mr. Kim Pan-gon from the beginning and coach Bento was the one to do it.
Challenges in Malaysia
Earlier this year, Kim Pan-gon quit his job at the Korean Football Federation to embark on a new adventure, becoming the coach of the Malaysian team. Over the years, Kim Pan-gon has made his mark as a vice-president, with making the line, planning rather than directing the players.
Therefore, becoming the coach of the Malaysian team, a team in the lowlands of world football, is a big challenge for Kim Pan-gon. After coach Kim Pan-gon was appointed, the Malaysian newspaper, New Straits Times, published an article with the questions: “Will a new era of Malaysian football be opened? Can coach Kim Pan-gon save the Malaysian national team?
That is also the thinking of Malaysian fans since the Korean coach took office. There are many concerns about coach Kim Pan-gon, but after the “Malay Tiger” led by coach Kim won 2-0 against the Philippines in March, the Malaysian media changed their attitude.
Malaysia’s Sun Daily newspaper published an article with the headline: “The impressive start of the Malaysian team under the new reign of coach Kim Pan-gon”.
After becoming the coach of the Malaysian national team, Mr. Kim Pan-gon applied martial law, banned players from using mobile phones during training and was not allowed to wear inappropriate clothing. At the same time, coach Kim Pan-gon clearly stated what the players should and should not do, fines if violated.
In the past, Malaysian players would come to the training ground with their headphones on, each listening to a different song. But everything changed after coach Kim Pan-gon arrived. The Korean coach wants to synchronize everything, turning the players into a cohesive team.
Therefore, the song that the players listen to is also changed. Accordingly, the players are not allowed to wear headphones anymore, but they have to listen to the same song. In the training ground, coach Kim Pan-gon played exciting and entertaining songs.
Mr. Kim Pan-gon also focused on the support of Malaysian fans. When Malaysian fans could not come to support in large numbers at the friendly tournament in Singapore in March, coach Kim Pan-gon played the sound of cheering from the fans (Ultras Malaysia) in the dressing room and during training sessions. The Korean coach wants to use this method to motivate his students.
In May, Mr. Kim Pan-gon confessed his intention to want the Malaysian team to change the game to a more proactive direction. “The important thing is that we don’t want to win just one game. We want to make sure that what the players show on the pitch is the DNA of the Malaysian national team. We are starting to have our own winning philosophy and we are working to change the way we play,” said coach Kim Pan-gon.
“The players need to have fighting spirit and solidarity. We want to win for the fans. We have passion, we want to show dynamic, aggressive, dominating play. At least we want the fans to feel proud,” emphasized the Korean coach.
Under the hands of coach Kim Pan-gon, the Malaysian team showed a new look and won tickets to the 2023 Asian Cup after winning 2 out of 3 matches in the qualifying round in June.
“Malay Tiger” won 3-1 against Turkmenistan, lost 1-2 to Bahrain and then won 4-1 against Bangladesh. Not stopping there, Malaysia won Thailand in the penalty shootout at King’s Cup 2022.
After the Malaysian team won tickets to the 2023 Asian Cup, coach Kim Pan-gon said: “There are times in the match when I ask the players to attack more. I want to build a dynamic team and play imposing. I don’t like scoring 2-3 goals and then slowing down the game. Because the fans come to watch for 90 minutes, we want them to see the game open.”
“In the second half against Bangladesh, I said to the players, this is our party. There were more than 50,000 fans cheering and they wanted an exciting match. So guys, play well and make this game a party. I encouraged the players like that and they did it,” Kim Pan-gon emphasized.
It can be said that coach Kim Pan-gon’s philosophy is completely different from his compatriots Park Hang-seo and Shin Tae-yong. While coach Shin Tae-yong is considered “a chameleon” in terms of tactics, Coach Park upholds a defensive philosophy. The fact that these three coaches attend the AFF Cup 2022 makes the tournament even more attractive.
However, difficulties have come to coach Kim Pan-gon ahead of the 2022 AFF Cup. During the gathering in November, out of 13 players of Johor Darul Ta’zim club called up, only 2 were recruited to the national team. are Safawi Rasid and Ramadhan Saifullah.
The players who contributed to helping Malaysia win tickets to the Asian Cup 2023 were absent from the AFF Cup 2022, including Arif Aiman, Corbin Ong, Matthew Davies, Shahrul Saad, Nazmi Faiz, Akhyar Rashid, Syafiq Ahmad, Nor Azam Abdul Azih, Akram Mahinan, Mick Swirad and Declan Lambert. There are reports that their host club does not want these players to join the Malaysian team.
“This is the first time in my career that I have seen so many players refuse to join the national team. I work in Malaysia and have to adapt and accept changes. I don’t want to complain about anything,” coach Kim Pan-gon shared.
Although he did not have the strongest squad, the Korean coach was still optimistic. At the press conference before the match against Laos (December 24), coach Kim Pan-gon emphasized that his team needs to race the goal difference with Vietnam to compete for the top spot.
Three days after the match against Laos, coach Kim Pan-gon’s Malaysia team will be a guest in My Dinh (December 27). For coach Kim Pan-gon, the match in My Dinh will be the ultimate challenge when he has to face his compatriot Park Hang-seo, the leader who has built an illustrious reputation in Southeast Asia. That is the confrontation that kimchi fans are looking forward to.
Nguyen Son | 05:54 12/24/2022