Star and veteran team. I’ve set up my own leadership

I met Hong Myung-bo, 54, the coach of Ulsan Hyundai to back-to-back titles in professional soccer’s K League 1, at the clubhouse. His voice was strong and his gestures were big. In today’s parlance, he oozes confidence. After finishing runners-up in his first year in charge in 2021, he brought the title back to Ulsan last year for the first time in 17 years. This year, they clinched the title with three games left in the regular season. It is the first time Ulsan, which celebrated its 40th anniversary, has won back-to-back league titles. “This victory was achieved by the trinity of the players, front office, and fans. I am even more pleased that everyone has grown to the next level by overcoming the difficult process.”토토사이트

Q: Looking back on this season?
A: “We started off with a lot of pressure to defend our title, and we started off really strong, but then there was a turning point in July: we had a bad run of form, we lost a key player, and the social media conversations between players escalated into a racism controversy. I think that turning point was when we turned the corner in the right direction and came back with the gift of the title.”

Q: What did you emphasize at that turning point?
A: “All of our players are number one. They have a lot of pride in their soccer, and it’s really hard for a coach to lead a group of players like that, so I just chose one thing: ‘I’m going to put my leadership into this team. Tactics and strategy are important, but the cohesion that keeps the players together comes from leadership.”

Q: Can you give us an example of what that leadership looks like?
A: “I treat every player fairly and with respect. I always say, ‘Don’t let your mood become your attitude,’ and when one or two players didn’t play, they had a certain attitude (of disgruntlement), and I said, ‘Let’s go back to the original team,’ and if I don’t point out that behavior, everything I say is a lie. I reprimanded them in front of the players, whether they’re top stars or seniors, because it’s very embarrassing as a coach if you have to make them feel good, but you can’t make decisions when the team is going wrong.”

Q: Did you ever get a thrill when you realized that what you were trying to do was exactly what you wanted?
A: “It was the game against Daegu on October 29 (2-0), when we clinched the title, and I felt a thrill when Kim Min-hyuk and Jang Si-young went in and scored a goal. To be honest, the coach knows the team best, so I think it’s just luck rather than skill. (Laughs)”

Q: This summer, there were some racist comments on social media between players.
A: “After we won the championship last year, we felt like we were now public enemies, and that happened the night we beat Jeju big time, 5-1, and it’s just life, but bad things always happen when you’re not humble, and it’s like, ‘This happened because we weren’t humble. When you say hurtful things to other people, it becomes a boomerang and comes back to you.”

Q: Is the ‘East Coast Derby’ against the Pohang Steelers more difficult than other games?
A: “I honestly don’t know, but I think our fans really want us to win because we’ve been stopped by Pohang before on the brink of the top. Since I’ve been in charge, we’ve met Pohang at important crossroads, but fortunately, we’ve rarely been caught off guard, which is a testament to the growth of our players.”

Q: Pohang coach Kim Ki-dong lamented the lack of support, saying, “If you give us another 5 billion or so in the budget, we can take charge and challenge for the championship.”
A: “The Pohang Steelers are the oldest team in Korea and have a good tradition. I don’t think giving them 5 billion won’t necessarily make them do better. I think if you have good players, you’ll have more opportunities, but you’ll also have more pressure. As a coach, you might be lucky to have players who aren’t at the top level but are trying to get to the top. You just have to teach them to work hard.”

Q: How do you feel about the Ulsan fans, who have exceeded 300,000 at home games?
A: “Every team’s supporters and fans love their players, but I think our Ulsan fans are really nice to the players. They criticize them when they don’t play well, but they treat them very well. For example, if they block the team bus after a losing streak and say, ‘Coach, come out. ‘ It’s a little frustrating, and it’s much more efficient to let the players go home and rest and prepare for the next game, rather than trying to get an apology from a coach who’s exhausted after 90 minutes.”

Q: What is the atmosphere like at Munsu Stadium in Ulsan?
A: “Other teams have organized cheers from their supporters, but we like to see the whole crowd cheering and singing together, and I sometimes find myself singing along to our fans’ chants, especially at the end of the game when they sing ‘Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye,’ haha.”

Klinsmann’s A team has the most players from Ulsan (five). They are goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo, central defenders Kim Young-kwon and Jeong Seung-hyun, and fullbacks Kim Tae-hwan and Seol Young-woo. Hong previously led the national team to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Q: Is the Klinsmann on the right track?
A : “It’s not my place to comment on Klinsmann’s controversial decision to work from home. He’s experienced enough to be in charge of the U.S. and German national teams, so I think he’s following his own philosophy and schedule. The result of the Asian Cup in January next year will be important, but I don’t think it’s bad yet.”

Q: Lee In-gyu has no connection to the national team.
A: “It’s the coach’s tendency to have active players like Cho Kyu-sung and Oh Hyun-gyu in the front line of the national team, and although In-joo has a different style than them, he’s a really good player. His ball-keeping and composure in the box are unrivaled. It would be good to give him a chance.”

Hong hasn’t had time to bask in the glow of victory. The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League is underway and he has to prepare for next season. “Next year, I’m going to try to win a third straight K League title and give more opportunities to the younger players. I want to bring my own colors to the team,” he said.

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