Ki- the Korean dilemma


Ki Sung Yeung Celtic newsWatching the Scottish Cup final in a Seoul pub with the small but noisy group that make up the Seoul CSC was a joyous experience, which, much like the previous week’s league match, made me proud to be a Celtic fan.

11pm kick-offs (pubs here can stay open til 3 or 4 in the morning) aren’t great for the liver and it’s fair to say that most of us were fairly merry by the time the game started and the songs and spontaneous Broony’s, Lenny’s and huddles were flowing. Like Celtic fans worldwide, we were enjoying having our club back. We took over our corner of the bar and with varying degrees of success tried to entice over and include those around us.

The opening half hour wasn’t particularly inspiring but when Ki Sung-Yeung stepped forward and smashed the ball past Darren Randolph things really took off. Ki’s fourth goal of the season eased the tension and, apart from the long range shot which hit our crossbar, it was fairly comfortable after that.

Being in Korea we were particularly happy to finally see one of Ki’s long range efforts hit the target!! More importantly, the team deservedly picked up some silverware which will hopefully catapult them onto bigger and better things next season.

With Ki’s goal and stadium man-of-the-match award still fresh in my mind, I find myself looking back on a season where two Koreans have represented Celtic and wondering if Celtic have made inroads in Korea.

The fact Ki scored in the final did bring extra attention to Celtic’s victory here but to be honest, Celtic’s impact in Korea has, through no fault of their own, been fairly limited.

Their profile has been raised, games are sporadically shown live, results are reported and goals occasionally shown on TV, which I guess puts the BBC to shame, who I believe didn’t even show the goals on Monday.

However, the monster that is the EPL dominates football coverage here with Manchester United and Bolton on TV every week. Despite all EPL games being played on Sunday, our good friends at the BBC had the rights for the final so it was not shown live on TV here and therefore Koreans without Channel 67, I’m going to assume that is everyone outside of our club, would not have seen the game. They could instead watch re-runs of Man Utd games or old EPL highlights.

Ki Sung Yeung scoresAnd herein lies a bit of a conundrum regarding Ki Sung-Yeung: how long will Ki’s profile in Korea survive being in the SPL?

He may polarize some Celtic fans torn between his passing ability but perceived lack of “dig” but Ki is a poster boy for Korean football.

Being in the SPL, especially if he’s not starting games, could threaten his profile among Koreans. Comments on twitter after the game, most probably by teenage fans, suggested that Ki could use his cup final goal to “escape Celtic”, that is to move to an EPL club.

This is the real tragedy, most Koreans see clubs such as Bolton, Fulham and the like as bigger clubs simply because of their status as EPL clubs.

Being generous, I’d say this reflects the fact that football in Korea is still very much in it’s infancy. The K-league only started in 1983 with five teams and in it’s present format has 16 teams without relegation.

Whereas baseball stadiums that hold around 28,000 are sold out every weekend as well as some week nights, the attendances at K-league matches are relatively low for a population of around 50 million.

There is no history in Korean football and this means that, despite the Korean players, there’s little effort to understand the history and values of Celtic. Most ‘soccer fans’ in Korea support an English team but have no interest in Korean football.

For the record, I must say that some Koreans have made the effort and the founder of Seoul CSC is a Korean who has spent a grand total of three days in Scotland.

Having looked at the situation from a Korean perspective, despite it’s flawed logic, I’m left wondering if my earlier question should have been ‘How long can Celtic’s profile survive being in the SPL?’

Is our famous club and the legends who made it so, in danger of being lost among the also-rans of “the world renowned EPL”? Just yesterday, Joe highlighted again the financial gulf between the EPL and SPL.

Can a club of our history and size continue to operate within the polluted, stagnant waters of the SPL? Do we have any other option?

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  • Patman says:

    Good read big lad. Thumbs up.

  • harrybhoy says:

    yes & no…we are a scottish club..we play in scotland..

    I will personally enjoy the next five years as lenny builds a team competing on all fronts year after year…takin that other mob doon a peg or two..look forward to celtic fc call ‘the scottish media’ on a few things..SFA challenged some more..giving the establishment a wee shake while doing it on the park..lets have it in writing exactly

    WHAT is deemed as sectarian? OFFICIALLY PLEASE!! transparency from refs explaining their decisions and a review board made up of three ex players..refs etc


  • I sometimes wonder if Celtic promote themselves enough when they sign ‘brand’ players. Japan seemed half-hearted and cumulated with us sending a team that contained Adam Virgo for a midweek fixture.

    The EPL is a marketing beast that will be difficult to overtake. But Bolton FFS, even carrots in Bolton won’t watch them.

    Man the horses and play some games in Korea. Or we may lose Ki. And that would be sacrilege

    • chiefinkorea says:

      In recent years Man Utd and Barcelona have come over and played FC Seoul (Ki’s old club) in friendlies and this year Liverpool are playing them in July. Mind you, I think these clubs do it as part of a wider Asian tour.

      As you say, the EPL is a marketing beast that we can’t compete with but we should take advantage of all opportunities to further raise the profile of the club.

  • Joe McHugh says:

    With three games in Australia in July one match before or after in South Korea would surely have been worthwhile.

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