|Hwang Hee-chan of FC Salzburg is in action during the UEFA Champions League group E soccer match between FC Salzburg and Liverpool FC in Salzburg, Austria on Dec. 10. EPA-Yonhap|
By John Duerden
It has been an interesting week in South Korean soccer. The national team is in the middle of the East Asian Cup and trying to end an up and down year on a high but there is more.
National team striker Hwang Hee-chan has been making headlines in England. The 23-year-old has impressed in the UEFA Champions League playing for Red Bull Salzburg. He was in action last week for the Austrian club against Liverpool.
The English giant triumphed but is about to sign Hwang's Japanese teammate Takumi Minamino. Moving to the European champion is a fine move but there is no reason for Hwang to feel jealous as there are suitors chasing him too. The one most mentioned is Wolverhampton Wanderers. The famous old English Premier League team could be the perfect destination for Hwang.
It is reported that he has a clause in his contract which stipulates that if a club comes in and offers around $25 million then Salzburg cannot stand in his way ― not that the club, which sees itself as one that develops new talent, would stop a young player moving to a bigger stage.
It could be that Wolves will buy Hwang and loan him back to Salzburg for the second half of the season. He can then head to England's Midlands in the summer. To see Hwang in the Premier League and facing compatriot and national team colleague Son Heung-min in the most popular league in the world would be something special for Korean fans.
Seeing two of the country's best male players on the same pitch is one thing but on Friday it became clear that fans in the Land of the Morning Calm will not be watching the best female players in 2023.
The Korea Football Association (KFA) decided to withdraw from the bidding race to host the 2023 Women's World Cup. Friday was the deadline that any bidder had to send the necessary documents, including a weighty and detailed bid book, to world governing body FIFA by Friday,
It was actually FIFA president Gianni Infantino who suggested the idea to the KFA in March. The Italian had a vision of both Koreas staging a tournament that has grown in importance, profile and popularity.
The KFA gave the reason for the withdrawal as down to FIFA rules which sees the organization collect the revenues from the competition and requires the stadiums of host cities to meet the same standards that the men's tournament has ― which would be an issue without major government investment.
It could also be that the idea of a tournament jointly hosted by the two Koreas ― always optimistic ― had receded into the realms of fantasy however much it appealed to FIFA. Relations are not just frosty on a political level, but the 2022 World Cup qualifier played in Pyongyang in October showed that in a sporting sense, there is a long way to go. South Korea complained of the welcome, or lack of one, it received on and off the field as well as the fact that fans were not allowed in the Kim Il Sung Stadium and the game was not broadcast at all.
The news will be good for Japan as well as the joint bid between Australia and New Zealand. These will be battling it out with South American candidates. The decision will be made in May but Korea's name will not be in this hat.