Former Switzerland, Grasshoppers and Borussia Dortmund defender Andre Egli is, at first sight, an unlikely source of inspiration for the Korea DPR side about to take part in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014 and their coach Hwang Yong-Bong.
Yet, as the Korea DPR boss explained to FIFA.com, the ex-Nati man, who went into coaching himself and once took charge of Busan Ipark in neighbouring Korea Republic, made quite an impression on him in a past encounter. So much so, in fact, that it has ultimately shaped the North Koreans’ whole approach to the upcoming tournament.
“I remember taking part in a training seminar for coaches quite a while ago in Pyongyang, and Andy Egli was one of the speakers,” said Hwang, just a couple of days ahead of his side’s opening match at Canada 2014 against Finland. “He taught me a lot of things about the job, about tactics and training players, and much of what I have achieved in my career is down to him.”
That career very nearly featured a world title two years ago, when Hwang guided Korea DPR to the final of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012, only for his side to lose on penalties to France.
“We don’t have a score to settle or anything like that,” said Hwang, who has stuck with a promising generation of players led by the free-scoring Ri Un-Sim and is hoping to take them one step further in Canada. “Losing the final in Azerbaijan was a big disappointment for us, but it would be a mistake for us to keep thinking about it,” he added. “We are looking to the future, not the past.”
The ultimate goal
Yet, as Hwang acknowledged, learning the lessons of the past is an essential step in paving the way for future success: “I drew a lot of conclusions from the U-17 World Cup and they’ve served me well for the U-20 tournament.”
Though anxious to see his charges progress, he is also aware that he still has much to learn in his job: “This tournament is a very important one for the players and for me. It’s an honour to be taking part in an U-20 World Cup for the first time. It’s a step-up in class and the coach has to be up to the job. There are always things that you have to learn.”
Now 45, Hwang has been involved in the game for over 30 years and has been striving to better himself throughout that time. “I began playing when I was 13 and I just saw football as a source of enjoyment,” he said with a smile, when asked to explain where his motivation to succeed stems from.
“I turned professional when I was 18 and it was then that I understood that I could make a living out of my passion for football. Even then I was already thinking about becoming a coach and harbouring dreams of making my name around the whole world.”
As down to earth as they come, the self-effacing Hwang added that although his side’s immediate objective is to reach the semi-finals, he is taking a wider view of his players’ careers: “I’d really like to make them leading lights of the game, the Lionel Messis and Ronaldinhos of women’s football if you will. I’d see that as a bigger achievement than winning any trophies.”