When the Korea Football Association (KFA) announced its final roster for the Hangzhou Asian Games on Thursday, the soccer world was abuzz.
There was more to the story than the information that Lee Kang-in (22), a key player, had been confirmed but was “coordinating his departure with his club”. The team selected Lee Sang-min (23, Seongnam FC), who has a history of drunk driving. Lee was caught drinking and driving in May 2020, and on August 5, he was sentenced to a fine of 5 million won for violating the Road Traffic Act.
According to Article 17 of the National Football Team Operating Regulations, “Anyone who is sentenced to a fine of more than 5 million won for an act related to drunk driving, and the sentence has not been finalized for three years, shall not be eligible to play for the national team”. Therefore, according to the rules, Lee Sang-min cannot be selected for the national team until August 4, 2023.
However, on September 24, 2021, Hwang Sun-hong, head coach of the U23 national team, called Lee Sang-min into training for the U23 Asian Cup qualifiers and included him in the roster for the October 4 qualifiers. Lee started two of the three qualifying matches and played full time, helping Korea qualify for the tournament and earning a spot on the roster.
Throughout the tournament’s qualifying and tournament play, Lee established himself as a key part of Hwangsun’s defense. He started the first game of the group stage against Malaysia and headed in a corner kick from Lee Kang-in in the 31st minute to give South Korea the lead in a 4-1 win. He earned the captain’s armband in that game and started all three group games against Uzbekistan and Thailand. As such, Lee’s inclusion in the final roster for the Hangzhou Asian Games was a no-brainer, as he is currently “ineligible” for the national team. 토토사이트
In a statement, the KFA said, “In the case of the player in question, he has been playing in the K League 2 since 2020 and was disciplined by the Korean Football Association for drunk driving, and was subsequently selected for the age-group national team. Compared to K League 1 and A national team players, neither league news nor player-related information is relatively well known to the outside world, so we were unable to properly review the relevant regulations in relation to this fact at the time of the first selection in 2021. In this regard, we must admit that the association was inexperienced in handling the relevant procedures.”
There’s a bigger problem. For now, there’s no way to fill Lee’s shoes. The Asian Olympic Committee (OCA) closed the final roster submission on March 15, and according to the KFA, “changes to the final roster can only be made due to injury or medical reasons.” While the KFA plans to make inquiries through the Korean Sports Federation, the OCA could raise issues of equity.
“We have 19 field players, so we considered the possibility of multi-positioning,” Hwang said when announcing the roster. Every sheet of paper is important in this tournament, and this administrative oversight threatens to blow it. In addition, there are only three professional center backs in the roster, including Lee Sang-min, Lee Jae-ik (Seoul Eland), and Lee Han-beom (FC Seoul). Park Jin-seop (Jeonbuk Hyundai), who was expected to play more as a defensive midfielder in the national team, was forced to play as a center back.
The KFA said, “We will face up to our administrative inexperience and problems in the past and come up with measures to prevent recurrence, such as checking disciplinary history before finalizing the roster, referring to the cases of overseas countries to ‘submit a pledge,’ or allowing the professional football association to check the history of problems when providing a standard contract.”
“The manager and coaching staff also deeply apologize for being careless in the process of selecting players,” said Hwang Sun-hong, “and we will pay more attention to the details of player selection and operation in the future.