Former World Cup star to be national team goalkeeper coach

March 11, 2016
Lee Woon-jae (Yonhap, file)

Lee Woon-jae (Yonhap, file)

By The Korea Times Los Angeles staff

If you ever saw Lee Woon-jae in action, or even during practice, this is a no-brainer. The man who was the goalkeeper for  the semifinalist South Korean soccer team at the 2002 FIFA World Cup will join the country’s senior national squad as a goalkeeper coach.

After its technical committee meeting, the Korea Football Association (KFA) announced Wednesday that Lee, who has been serving as a goalkeeper coach for the South Korea men’s Olympic football team, will serve the same role for the senior team guided by head coach Uli Stielike.

The goalkeeper coaching job had been vacant since former coach Kim Bong-soo resigned last December.

“There was a strong request from head coach Stielike,” the KFA said. “Our technical committee also agreed that Lee is the right person to be the goalkeeper coach for the senior team preparing the final regional qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.”

It’s not surprising when you consider that he was a very vocal leader during his playing days. It was almost like having another coach on the field the way he directed and positioned his defenders.

The KFA said that Lee will begin his new job after the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that starts in August. South Korea booked their spot at the Rio Games after finishing second at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship in Qatar in January.

The KFA said that Cha Sang-kwang, a full-time instructor at the KFA, will temporarily serve as the senior team goalkeeper coach until then. Cha, 52, last year worked as the goalkeeper coach at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile, where the country reached the round of 16.

Lee represented South Korea at four FIFA World Cups and played 133 games, the most among South Korean goalkeepers. In those matches, he gave up 119 goals. The 42-year-old is best known for his performance at the 2002 World Cup where he made a critical save in a penalty shootout against Spain in the quarterfinals and helped South Korea to reach their first-ever final-four appearance.

Lee, who is the first goalkeeper to win MVP in the South Korean pro football league, has played for the Suwon Samsung Bluewings and Jeonnam Dragons before ending his 15-year professional career in 2012. He has been the goalkeeper coach for the men’s Olympic football team since 2013.

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*Yonhap news materials were used in this article.

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