Runner-up in unfavorable conditions… Director Kim Ki-dong’s ‘Flexible Leadership’ Shines

Worst season for key players to leave. But the director’s leadership shone even more in the dark.

Pohang Steelers manager Kim Ki-dong (49) lost to Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia in the single final match of the 2021 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on the 24th (Korean time). After the game, coach Kim Ki-dong, who stopped at the threshold of the championship, said, “I only showed 50% of what I had prepared. “I’m sorry I couldn’t take the championship cup,” he said.

However, looking at Pohang’s circumstances, there seems to be no reason for the manager to bow his head.

Before this season, Pohang’s main players such as Ilyuchenko, Palošević, and Choi Young-jun left, and striker Song Min-gyu also transferred during the season. The main goalkeeper, Hyun-moo Kang, is unable to play due to an injury, and Seung-mo Lee, the main gunner, could not go abroad for the championship match due to lack of time for special volunteer work.

It is coach Kim’s leadership that united the players in such unfavorable conditions. Manager Kim, who is neither strong nor soft, drew the fighting spirit to unite the team, and makes even the candidate players immerse themselves in the game with anticipation.

Although they conceded a goal in the first 16 seconds of the game and lost the starting line, and after running aggressively in the second half, they conceded an additional goal in the 18th minute and lost the match, but Pohang showed their best performance. In the 12th minute of the first half, Shin Jin-ho’s shot hit the post.

Manager Kim said, “I was psychologically impatient and made many mistakes because of the early goals. If Shin Jin-ho had scored, the game would have been more interesting.” About 50,000 spectators filled the stadium that day, and coach Kim said, “Football requires fans. “The players must have had fun,” he said.

Coach Kim evaluated his opponent Al Hilal, “We use players with better individual abilities rather than organized football.” Jang Hyun-soo, a former Korean national, also contributed to Al Hilal’s victory with a solid defense.

As the runner-up on the day, coach Kim Ki-dong took the prize money of 2.5 million dollars (about 3 billion won). As they made it to the finals, they earned quite a bit of money, including participation fees. Even in a difficult situation where many of the main players escaped, it was a great help to the club’s income. Director Kim said, “Thank you for your support from many fans in Korea. I think the young players are nervous, but I hope they can grow a lot through this game.”