‘No soccer without genealogy’
A hanging banner in the Steel Yard, Pohang’s dedicated soccer stadium, on the day of a professional K League match. Founded in April 1973 as an unemployed soccer team of Pohang Steel, the Pohang Steelers are the only professional soccer team that hasn’t changed its name or location in 50 years.
Lee Hoe-taek, Heo Jung-mu, Choi Sun-ho, Hwang Sun-hong…. Some of the biggest names in Korean soccer have served as head coaches. Kim Ki-dong, the latest in the ‘lineage’, is also a Pohang legend. He ranks second on the list of most appearances by a field player with 501 games in the K League, including 227 with Pohang (1991-92 and 2003-11). During his playing days, Kim Ki-dong was an “iron man” who played tirelessly as a defensive midfielder despite his small size (171 centimeters).
Since Kim took the helm in 2019, Pohang has become a ‘theater goal team’. A theater goal is an equalizing or reversal goal scored after 90 minutes of regular time and just before the end of the match. Pohang has scored seven theater goals this season, all of which have been scored by defenders or substitutes.
The Pohang Steelers have been losing key players every year as support from parent company POSCO dwindles. Despite this, Kim has always managed to keep them in the top tier. This season, the Steelers are in second place out of 12 teams in the K League 1 and have reached the quarterfinals of the FA Cup, the competition for Korea’s strongest clubs.
We caught up with Kim at the KAL Hotel in Seogwipo when he was in Jeju for the FA Cup semifinals (which were postponed due to a typhoon).
Role model No leader, I am the role model
Q: Why does Pohang have so many theater goals?
A: “We do a lot of winter training, to the point where the players don’t like it. If you lose power and strength in the summer, you’re bound to sag, but during the season, you don’t have time to recover because it’s game-rest-game, so you don’t have time to recover your physical strength. The players have faith in me because the hard winter training I’ve been doing for five years is paying off, and the physical strength I built up in the winter gives me the strength to play at the end of the game, and I think that’s where the theater goals come from.”
Q: What about the phrase ‘maneuvering magic’?
A: “That’s what the fans call it because it’s like, ‘How could he do that?’ Where’s the magic in that? I think it’s about thinking and preparing with the players and coaches, and how well you have a plan B and plan C when things don’t go your way or there’s an unexpected turn of events.” “There’s no magic. There’s only preparation.”
Q: Are there any leaders you look up to as role models?
A: “I’m Kim Ki-dong. I’m going to play my style of soccer, and I’m not looking to anyone as a role model, I’m going to be my own role model. I had 12 coaches when I was a player, and I told myself to take the good things from them and not do anything that the players don’t like. Players don’t like coaches who are too pushy or don’t change at all from their own mold.” 바카라
Q: How do you think players are now compared to when you were playing?
A: “I think they’re more sincere about football. Before, there were a lot of players who had other things on their minds than football and binge drinkers. Now there are very few. You can play football for a long time.