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Guus Hiddink turns down Korean job offer; still willing to help team

By Yonhap
  • Published : Oct 8, 2017 - 08:55
  • Updated : Oct 8, 2017 - 08:55
MOSCOW -- Former South Korean men's football head coach Guus Hiddink has turned down the country's offer of another position on the national team, though he's still willing to assist the squad for next year's FIFA World Cup, the national football federation said Saturday.

The Korea Football Association said Hiddink also canceled his trip to Moscow, where South Korea are scheduled to face Russia in a friendly match later in the day.

According to the association, KFA Vice President Lee Yong-soo met with Hiddink in Cannes, France, on Friday to make the Dutchman a formal job offer, potentially as a technical advisor. But Hiddink, who coached South Korea to the semifinals at the 2002 World Cup, told Lee that he has agreed to be a television analyst during next year's World Cup and will thus be unable to help South Korea in any official capacity.
 
In this photo provided by the Korea Football Association on Oct. 7, 2017, Guus Hiddink (C), former South Korean men`s national football boss, is flanked by Lee Yong-soo, a KFA vice president (L) and Chun Han-jin, head of the KFA`s international affairs, during their meeting in Cannes, France, on Oct. 6, 2017. (Yonhap)

"But since he still loves our national team, Hiddink expressed his willingness to help us in an unofficial role," the KFA added in a statement. 

Lee, who was the KFA's technical director during the 2002 World Cup, said Hiddink also wanted to use football to help defuse tension on the Korean Peninsula.

"Coach Hiddink was thinking of a much bigger picture than just taking on an official post at the KFA," Lee told reporters in Moscow. "And he also had ideas of helping foster inter-Korean exchange through football at this time of heightened tensions on the peninsula."

The status of Hiddink, still an iconic figure among South Korean football fans after the historic 2002 World Cup run, has been a hot potato in recent weeks. Soon after South Korea qualified for the World Cup on Sept. 5, South Korean media reported that Hiddink was eyeing a South Korean coaching job.

The issue then degenerated into a petty war of words between Hiddink's camp and the KFA. The football body said it never received a formal request from Hiddink, but Roh Je-ho, secretary-general of the nonprofit Guus Hiddink Foundation in Seoul, showed the media his text message to KFA technical director Kim Ho-gon, in which Roh said Hiddink was interested in becoming the South Korea head coach again.

On Sept. 14, Hiddink met with South Korean correspondents in Amsterdam and said he'd be willing to help South Korean football in any capacity.

The controversy also put incumbent head coach Shin Tae-yong in an awkward position. Shin only took the helm in July, replacing the German Uli Stielike, and coached the final two World Cup qualification matches before Hiddink's name popped up.

After the KFA's board meeting Sept. 26, Kim said the national team would like Hiddink's assistance in an official position, though his exact role wasn't yet determined and there would be no coaching change.

At the time, Kim said Hiddink hadn't yet responded to the KFA's email seeking his preferred role and working conditions.

When asked if Hiddink really had any serious interest in the South Korean coaching job, Lee, KFA vice president said, "It's not for the KFA to say. I think it'd be more appropriate for his camp to comment on it."

Lee did argue that he didn't think Roh's text message could be regarded as a formal expression of interest.

"In all of his communication with us, Coach Hiddink didn't show any interest in the national team coaching position," Lee added. "I don't think he would have let someone at his foundation pass on such intentions in a text message."

Lee said he and Hiddink also touched upon Shin's situation.

"With two matches left in the final World Cup qualification round, Coach Shin staked his career on the challenge," Lee said. "And since he stepped up at such a difficult juncture, we have to stick with him through the World Cup. And Hiddink said he respects the KFA's decision (to keep Shin at the helm)."

According to Lee, Hiddink will offer information on South Korea's opponents after the draw, which will take place Dec. 1, and will also advise on strategies and tactics.

In its earlier statement, the KFA said Hiddink stressed the importance of "direct communication" with South Korean football officials during his recent meeting. The KFA added that it has agreed to keep Hiddink posted on developments related to national team operations through a direct channel.

Hiddink is scheduled to visit South Korea sometime in October and he is expected to have further talks with KFA officials then. (Yonhap)