It’s MBTI era. If you don’t know this, you will be treated as a ‘old man’. I’ve done it twice. I quickly forgot the results of the first one and did it twice. Then I remembered I and N, but I couldn’t remember what happened after that, so I didn’t try the third one. It’s about ‘old man who tried hard’. And this is the story of a ‘soccer old man’ who doesn’t even know the word MBTI.

Park Hang-seo, who was the head coach of the Korean national team in 2002, was unknown until the first FIFA World Cup match. Hwang Seon-hong, who scored the first historical goal against Poland, ran and hugged him and made his name known. In 2002, ‘director Park Hang-seo’ did not see the light while the members were running on a solid road in life. In October 2017, when he lost his place, coach Park Hang-seo took the helm of the Vietnamese national team. The reaction of the domestic soccer community was tepid. It was because I thought that such a director went to such an ordinary place.

Five years have passed. In Vietnam, ‘Park Hang-seo’ has become a holy name stone character. He wrote several of the first achievements of Vietnamese football and was awarded a medal by the country. In other words, he is a ‘national hero’. Powerful people in the political and business circles, such as President Nguyen Xuan Phuc (resigned on January 17), second in power, and Chairman Pham Nhat Vuong, the largest conglomerate, often invite him to events hosted by them. This is because friendship with Director Park is power. Director Park is one of the most famous people in Vietnam. Everywhere I go, people flock to it, making it difficult to go out for a normal day. A re-evaluation was also carried out in Korea. There is even a public opinion about his name as the successor to Paulo Bento.

Vietnamese soccer is divided into before and after coach Park Hang-seo. Just five years ago, Vietnam was the second-largest group in Southeast Asia competing with Malaysia and Indonesia. It’s different now. Although Thailand (Thailand) is still strong on the Southeast Asian stage, Vietnam’s performance is far ahead on the broader Asian stage. Malaysia and Indonesia, which were rivals, can no longer even hold out their business cards in front of Vietnam. Vietnam reached the final stage for the first time in an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) competition. Advancement to the AFC Asian Cup quarterfinals and FIFA World Cup Asian final qualifiers was also the first achievement in Southeast Asia. In the AFF Cup, dubbed the ‘Southeast Asian World Cup’, it reached the final twice out of three competitions and won once. During the five years with director Park Hang-seo, the stage in Vietnam moved from Southeast Asia to Asia. Vietnamese people are experiencing this for the first time.

The AFF Cup, held across December 2022 and January 2023, clearly showed the relationship between Vietnam and coach Park Hang-seo. Even before the opening, this tournament attracted attention in Southeast Asia as ‘the last stage of coach Park Hang-seo’. The Vietnamese media used the press conference held every game as an opportunity for a ‘5-year story interview’. Questions such as ‘the most memorable scene’, ‘the most unforgettable moment’ and ‘the future direction of Vietnamese football’ were the main questions rather than the content or result of the game. With Thailand and the final two matches (home and away) approaching, Vietnam’s press conference was filled with praise from local reporters rather than Q&A. At the end of a reporter’s rather lengthy question, there was a great applause at the scene. It turned out that it was not a question, but a speech of thanks and respect to director Park Hang-seo. Even after the second leg of the final, which failed to win, there was not a single Vietnamese reporter who asked coach Park Hang-seo about the defeat. The event ended with a commemorative photo session with reporters.

Coach Park Hang-seo showed a new landscape to Vietnamese football. In particular, for national team level players, coach Park Hang-seo is a noble figure in his life. Vietnam’s football world has a strong owner’s influence, so most players are tied up with long-term contracts with local clubs. It is difficult to get permission to go abroad. While coach Park Hang-seo was there, the stiff Vietnamese football market began to pierce. Top star Nguyen Quang Hai currently plays in the French second division. Left-back Doan Van Howe briefly challenged the Dutch first division. Starting goalkeeper Dang Van Lam returned to Korea after experiencing Thailand and the first division in Japan. After passing through Incheon United, Nguyen Cong Phuong moved to Yokohama FC in the first division of the Japanese J-League in the transfer market this winter. Striker Nguyen Van Toan welcomes the 2023 season at K League 2 Seoul E-Land. Players are grateful for the ‘Park Hang-seo Effect’ that has changed their lives in such a practical way. If the past five years had been ordinary, overseas leagues such as Korea, Japan, and Europe would have remained possible targets for Vietnamese players even now, only in their dreams.

A leader who changed the loose playstyle

While Vietnamese players are out, the number of Korean coaches imported into Southeast Asia has increased. Among the teams that reached the semifinals of the 2022 AFF Cup, the heads of three countries were Korean leaders. Malaysia recruited Kim Pan-gon, former head of the Korea Football Association’s national team, and Indonesia recruited former Korean national team coach Shin Tae-yong. It was the ‘Park Hang-seo effect’. Over the past five years, Southeast Asian football has witnessed firsthand how Korean coaches have changed their loose playstyle. In Southeast Asia, individual skill-oriented play (of course, only works in Southeast Asia) is the standard. Coach Park Hang-seo’s Vietnam broke this order with strong physical fights and ‘direct football’. Indonesia also improved its performance as players increased their ‘tough play’ since Shin Tae-yong took over as head coach. Everyone brings in a Korean leader and asks him to do like Vietnam and coach Park Hang-seo.

In a way, coach Park Hang-seo may be a soccer player who has been blessed with heavenly luck. At the time when he was active as an assistant coach, the FIFA World Cup was held in Korea, and the opportunity to assist coach Hiddink came back to him. Even when he chose Vietnam with a feeling of catching straw, coach Park Hang-seo would have had no idea what it meant to the Korean economy. South Korea is currently the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) country in Vietnam. Korean companies are scrambling to enter this market. In December 2022, then-President Nguyen Xuan Phuc personally visited Korea. There was no way that director Park Hang-seo would be absent from the dinner. In this situation, coach Park Hang-seo hit the jackpot with soccer, the biggest sport in Vietnam. The demands of the world and the hero’s performance matched wonderfully. It is truly the best timing and positioning. 안전놀이터

Outside the stadium, coach Park Hang-seo is still just a man. He lives by saying that he only knows how to play soccer. To be honest, I’m not very interested in interviews. Unlike the younger generation of leaders who are good at making bold remarks, director Park Hang-seo does not throw out a line of headlines with flat answers throughout the interview. Suggestions such as publishing essays and producing documentaries fizzled out in front of the insistence that ‘we need to focus on soccer’. There is no such thing as active media activity. Such a rustic corner was accepted as a ‘real teacher’ and ‘second parent’ to Vietnamese players.

The fact that director Park Hang-seo achieved success with his own style that he adhered to throughout his life is important. His success gives hope to many of the older generation in Korea whose shoulders are drooping. It is a message that if he finds his own right place and digs a field without looking sideways, he can splendidly decorate the second act of his life. Fathers of the Republic of Korea, I hope that you find your own time and place and demonstrate your abilities to become Park Hang-seo.

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