South Korean U-23 Football Coach Apologizes for Olympic Miss, Calls for Program Reforms

INCHEON - The head coach of South Korea's men's under-23 national football team, Hwang, issued an apology on Saturday for the team's failure to qualify for the upcoming Paris Olympics and suggested significant changes to the management of the program. This apology came upon his return from Qatar, where the team was eliminated from the Olympic qualifiers after a dramatic penalty shootout loss to Indonesia.

According to Yonhap News Agency, who spoke to reporters at Incheon International Airport, the responsibility for the disappointing outcome rests with him. However, he highlighted the challenging circumstances under which the players competed and urged the public to support rather than criticize the young athletes. Hwang also pointed out structural issues within the national team's program, suggesting that U-23 team coaches should be appointed for four-year terms without mid-term reviews, which currently focus on performance at the Asian Games.

Hwang explained that the existing system doesn't allow sufficient time to prepare for Olympic qualifiers after the Asian Games, potentially compromising the team's competitiveness in Asia. This issue was compounded by Hwang's additional responsibilities as the caretaker manager for the senior national team earlier this year, following the dismissal of coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Although Hwang stated that his dual role did not impact the U-23 team's performance, he emphasized the need for long-term planning and stability within the program to enhance international performance.

The Korea Football Association is still in the process of finding a full-time replacement for Klinsmann, with Hwang among the candidates despite the U-23 team's recent setback. Hwang, expressing his current state of fatigue and intention to take a break, dismissed rumors of negotiating for the senior team coach position during the tournament, affirming his commitment to his present role.

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