Experts ‘underwhelmed’ by Stielike

September 8, 2014

By Kim Tae-jong

The Korean Football Association (KFA) picked former Swiss team coach and German national player Uli Stielike as head coach of the national team, last week.


Uli Stielike (Yonhap)

“Uli Stielike will lead the national team through the 2018 Russia World Cup,” the KFA said in a statement. The choice took some experts by surprise.

“It is certainly a surprise as his name has not been in the media mix over the last few weeks,” said Asian football expert John Duerden, who also writes columns for The Korea Times. “It is a little underwhelming as he is much better known for his exploits as a player than coach, and doesn’t meet a number of the KFA’s own requirements for the position as, for example, he has never coached in the World Cup.”

Last month, the KFA decided to appoint three Korean coaches to temporarily lead the national football team after talks broke down between the KFA and former Dutch national team coach Bert van Marwijk, who was one of the shortlisted candidates to succeed Hong.

Duerden said Stielike’s nationality seemed to be the most important factor when the KFA picked him up. “In the end, his German nationality, the fact that he has experience working with young players for various German teams and some experience in West Asian soccer, surely helped, but this is not an appointment to get anyone excited,” he said.

Reaction to the appointment from others was mixed.

“Given our current situation, he is not a bad choice,” Sky Sports commentator Han Joon said. “He may not be an ideal coach, but we can’t delay any longer and probably he is a good choice given our options left and the salary that we can pay.”

The appointment has ended the KFA’s struggle to find a foreign coach to replace Hong Myung-bo, who stepped down after Korea’s dismal campaign in the Brazil World Cup.

Since Hong’s abrupt resignation in July, the national team has had no head coach, although it was scheduled to play two friendly matches against Venezuela on Sept. 5 and Uruguay on Sept. 8.

Lee Yong-soo, the head of the technical committee, said his “passion and devotion” to Korean football were the main reasons to choose him.

“He said he will come to Korea with his wife, expressing his willingness to help develop Korean football including youth clubs and even female teams,” Lee said during a news conference at Bucheon Main Stadium in Gyenggi Province, hours before the national team’s friendly match.

The 59-year-old coach is different from other European candidates, who wanted to stay in their home country even if they became head coach, Lee said.

The KFA described Stielike as a “legendary footballer, who won Best Foreign Player titles four times in Spanish top league La Liga” between 1978 and 1981, and played for the German national team for 10 years between 1975 and 1984.

After retirement from playing in 1988, Stielike started to develop his career as a coach with the Swiss national football team from 1989 to 1991.

The new head coach will come to Korea on Sept. 8 to watch the Taeguk Warriors’ friendly game against Uruguay, the KFA said.