Three-time World Cup participant Joo-Sung Kim of Korea was in town last weekend to meet local football officials and players.
“I am impressed with the interest that the youth players are showing toward the sport. The FA (Northern Mariana Island Football Association) and its officials are doing a great job in pushing for the development of football in the CNMI,” said Kim, who is a prominent figure in Korean football, especially in the late 80s and early 90s, and is now the general secretary of the East Asian Football Federation.
Nicknamed the “Wild Horse” during his playing years for his tremendous speed and long, curly hair, Kim suited up for the Korean National Team in three World Cup editions (1986, 1990, and 1994). He also represented Korea in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, in Asian Games (1986 and 1990), and AFC Asian Cup (1988) and played for Korean pro team (Daewoo Royals) and German club (VfL Bochum). The midfielder is one of the consistent scorers for Korea and was named Asian Footballer of the Year in three straight years (1989 to 1991).
Off all his accomplishments, he treasured the most the times he played for the Korean national team.
“It takes a lot of time, sacrifices, and practice to make it to the national team, so I admire these players who want to represent the CNMI in international/regional tournaments,” said Kim, who watched the training sessions of the Commonwealth’s girls U15 team and the men’s squad at the Oleai Sports Complex Field last Friday.
“Besides becoming members of the CNMI team, I know they are dreaming of one day playing in the pro and they could do that if they will continue to improve their skills and get proper guidance from coaches and support from the FA ,” the EAFF general secretary added.
The 48-year-old official also said that with the growing interest in CNMI football, its participation in various off-island tournaments, and continuous education of the coaches, referees, and other officials, the Commonwealth is getting recognition from its peers.
“Before, members of EAFF and other counties in Asia don’t know anything about CNMI football. But in the past years and with CNMI teams competing in EAFF events, the island is getting recognition from other members. It is gaining respect, as other members know that the CNMI is doing its best to keep up with the rest of the region,” said Kim, who left the island last Saturday.
NMIFA general secretary Ross Zapanta said the association is thankful and honored by Kim’s short visit, saying his presence gave motivations to players, especially the young ones.
“He knows what it takes to be a good player and he shared that to our players. He inspired them to play for the national team and keep training to have a chance to play in pro leagues and international competitions,” Zapanta said.
The NMIFA official added Kim’s visit showed that EAFF is taking care of its member-federations.
“Mr. Kim’s visit proved that EAFF is giving importance to us and would want to know how they can assist us to continue the development of the sport in the CNMI,” Zapanta said.