The past few weeks have been bad for Korean football and indifferent for Jeju United. The K-League is currently embroiled in a match fixing scandal that seems to escalate daily, and Jeju have continued the inconsistent form that saw them drop out of the champion’s league at the first hurdle.
First to Jeju who have played four matches since their exit from the ACL. They started with a morale boosting, if uninspiring, 1-0 away win in Ulsan and followed it up with a 4-2 away FA Cup win against National League (second tier) side Goyang. Unfortunately after this promising mini recovery we returned to this season’s familiar pattern of win-lose-draw, win-lose-draw.
Jeju lost one-nil at home to play-off rivals Chunnam, who are now only below Jeju on goal difference, and drew one all away to Gyeongnam. Jeju currently lie fourth. However, they are only above the fifth and sixth placed clubs on goal difference and are currently 6 points off top placed Jeonbuk. The most worrying aspect of Jeju’s performance is their lack of goals. Win, lose or draw, Jeju have only produced a maximum of one goal in their last four fixtures (excluding the FA Cup). You feel this has to be rectified for Jeju to progress this year.
Now onto the troubling business of the K-League match fixing scandal. The scandal began to unfold when it was revealed that two gambling brokers and two unnamed footballers were arrested two weeks ago for taking bribes of over $100,000. Unfortunately and predictably, this was only the beginning, at the time of writing 10 clubs are said to be involved in the scandal, two of which have been reported to be Incheon United and Daejeon Citizen. We don’t yet know the other teams, although news has come of six arrests, five current players, and a former K-League star.
The saddest, most heartbreaking part of this affair has been the suicides of two players. Chung Jong-kwan, a Seoul United player formerly with Jeonbuk Motors, was found hanged in a Seoul hotel room with a note that read “I’m sorry. I feel ashamed to have engaged in match-fixing.” And 23-year-old Yoon Ki-won, a goalkeeper for Incheon United, was found dead in his car, though no suicide note was found.
The K-League announced a two-week grace period (June 1-13) saying during this period they would be lenient towards any players who admitted to involvement in match fixing. This seems like a smart move. K-League President Chung Mong-gyu said “It [the scandal] will hurt me as though someone is cutting into my flesh.”
I echo those sentiments. This is a truly miserable and depressing time for anyone who loves our game, and the scandal looks to be deep and pervasive. This may well only be the beginning. It will take a lot of effort for Korean football to recover from this, and we need the combined efforts of players, clubs, fans and administration to rebuild trust. This has to start now.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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