U-17 coach Byun Sung-hwan “World Cup ‘spearhead’ even if criticized. We will challenge recklessly…courage from me”

After spending nearly a decade as a youth coach after retiring as a player, Byun Sung-hwan (44), the head coach of the South Korea U-17 national soccer team, prioritizes “individual growth, belief, and motivation” when coaching players at that age. The “team-winning soccer” that is often talked about at the adult level is not considered appropriate for youth players. He believes that by the time a player reaches the age group cut-off point of 23, they should have mastered a variety of soccer challenges, regardless of the outcome, so that as an adult and professional player, they can produce results as a team and as individuals, regardless of the coach.

In his first year and a half in charge, Byun led South Korea to a runner-up finish at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-17 Asian Cup, which concluded on Feb. 2, punching their ticket to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Indonesia this November. The ‘Byeonsung Hwanho’ lost to ‘nemesis’ Japan in the final after a controversial officiating decision, but were hailed for their fluid attacking football. The Korean Football Association (KFA) praised the team’s high ball possession and varied attacking patterns for reaching the final of the tournament for the first time in nine years, setting an example for their age group.

In a recent interview at the Sports Seoul offices, Byun said, “This age group needs to play soccer where individuals fight and win rather than the team, which means playing a dominant game. It took a long time to instill this philosophy because of the nature of the national team (which doesn’t play for long periods of time like clubs). We broke down every situation in soccer, animated it, documented it, shared it, and rehearsed it.” “They say that the national team is all about results. The process could have been easier if I had organized my training accordingly. But I think of age group coaches as ‘educators’. It’s important to make sure these players develop and make it to the 20s, 23s, and A team. To do that, they need to be ‘recklessly challenged’ to maximize their individual style. That’s why it became our slogan.”

After graduating from Ulsan University as an assistant coach, Byun made his professional debut with Ulsan Hyundai in 2002 and played for the Korean national team at the Busan Asian Games that year. He also played in the Australian A-League with Sydney FC (2009-2011) and Newcastle Jets (2011-2012). He played fullback as his main position. After his retirement in 2014, he took over as head coach of Seongnam FC’s youth team and was appointed as the KFA’s full-time youth coach in 2018. It’s no exaggeration to say that he’s an expert in youth coaching, even as the current head coach of the U-17s.

The most valuable thing he has learned is the nature of a youth coach. If you choose to coach for results or to keep your position, there will be no coach or player left. That’s why he’s a big proponent of “reckless endeavors” with the national team. 안전놀이터

“I think youth players perform on the field as much as they understand,” Byun said, “that’s why I make sure the coach has a clear idea of the kind of soccer they want to play before training.” “I tell the players to challenge themselves, but I have to be brave myself,” he added. During the Asian Cup, I looked in the mirror and said, ‘

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