The K League’s overseas cohort is currently dominated by Brazilian players, with Europeans yet to head to South Korea with the same frequency. Some European stars have enjoyed distinguished careers in South Korea, such as Spanish defensive midfielder Osmar who became FC Seoul’s first foreign captain.
Yet football has not witnessed a sharing of talent between Europe and South Korea in the manner of gaming or food. South Korea’s growing prospects on the international stage, reflected by a run to the final in the U20 World Cup, could change that.
Source: FC서울 (FC Seoul) via Facebook.
Life in Europe has been heavily influenced by many aspects of Asian culture, from entertainment to cuisine. Legendary gaming franchises, from Japan’s Pokemon to South Korea’s War of Genesis, have developed a global audience. Japanese food chains, like Wagamama and YO! Sushi, are commonplace in many European cities, while Korean BBQ outlets have become increasingly popular.
Many elements of culture have gone the other way. For example, NetBet Japan offers its players a range of slots from prominent European game developers, such as Sweden’s NetEnt and the British company Microgaming. European delicacies such as pizza have become more popular in South Korea in recent years, while Korean bakery chain Paris Baguette draws a clear influence from European culture.
Football is one significant area of culture in which this relationship between Europe and Korea are taken longer to develop. Many leading European clubs were unwilling to look at South Korea as a market for untapped potential, although Park Ji-sung’s and Son Heung-min’s success in elite European competitions should have opened people’s eyes to the talent on show in South Korea. The success of the South Korean side in reaching the final of the Under 20 World Cup provides irrefutable proof of the talent on offer.
While you want to see the best South Koreans plying their trade in the K League for as long as possible, the nature of football means that it is almost inevitable that players will feel compelled to try and establish themselves in the top European leagues. However, anything that brings South Korean football to a bigger audience on a bigger stage should be welcomed.
This will encourage more Europeans to consider the K League as a challenge worth relocating for. Many Europeans at the peak of the career (Graziano Pelle, Axel Witsel, Nicolas Anelka) have moved to Asian sides, so the temptation is there.
Source: 경남FC(Gyeongnam FC) via Facebook.
Cracking the European market could be pivotal to the K League’s global status; just as many Koreans look to Spurs’ results to follow the fortunes of Son, European players arriving in Korea could attract new audiences. There is a handful of Europeans currently showing their skills in the K League. England’s Jordon Mutch is at Gyeongnam, Spain’s Osmar calls FC Seoul his home, and Montenegrin international Stefan Mugosa plays for Incheon United. There are a few more from Europe, but the Brazilian contingent is by far the most significant group of overseas players in the K League.
Trailblazers, like Son Heung-min, have shown the quality of football to be found in South Korea, as did the impressive U20 side in becoming the first South Korean side to reach a global final. These successes will continue to draw people to the K League.
While part of that attraction will manifest in European clubs purchasing the most promising talent, it will also take the form of European players and fans looking to be a part of the growth of South Korean football.