SEOUL: Hong Myung-bo, veteran former international and coach of the South Korean side who won bronze at London 2012, has protested against the withdrawal of a medal from a player who waved a placard with a political message at the end of the play-off victory over Japan in Cardiff writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

During the post-match celebrations midfielder Park Jong-woo held up a sign referring to a territorial dispute between South Korea and Japan. IOC officials demanded that he be barred from the podium at the medals presentation at Wembley the following day.

Hong said: “He was as big a contributor to the team as anyone. As far as I am concerned, he is a well-deserving bronze medallist. That should have been his moment to remember, and he never got that chance.”

The placard – which read “Dokdo is our territory” – reignited controversy after a surprise visit by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to the island two weeks earlier.

FIFA also opened disciplinary proceedings against the player, who was passed the sign by a fan from the stands and has yet to get his bronze medal. The Korean Olympic Committee asked Park not to attend official banquets or functions to celebrate South Korea’s first Olympic football medal.

Hong said: “When I heard the KOC decided not to let Park attend these events, I was very disappointed. I personally called him and told him to come. It was the least I could do as his coach.”

The Korea Football Association has come under fire at home for writing to its Japanese  counterparts insisting that Park’s headline-grabbing stunt was not premeditated.

The KFA denied the document was an apology, merely clarification of Park’s “impulsive” act and expressed “hope the two sides will be able to work together to prevent similar incidents in the future.”

Hong, tipped as a future coach of the national side, criticised the decision to write the letter at all, saying the KFA “should have been more careful.”


# # # #