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Liberia must hire this man for the Lone Star job

By Ralph Geeplay        

 

Recently, the Liberian national team, Lone Star suffered a humiliating 6-1 defeat at the hands of the Nigerian Super Eagles in Calabar, Nigeria, exposing Coach Kaetu Smith, who once described himself as a “good coach.”

The Liberian Lone Star must hired a foreign coach, appoint Kaetu Smith as the under 23 caretaker and let him coach also in the domestic league. The Liberian Football Association must also give the under 20 or 18 coaching job to Thomas Kodjo, while he’s also coaching in the domestic league.

The Man for the Lone Star job though, is the South Korean manager and coach Huh Jung Moo.  The argument can be made that indigenous coaches on the continent are growing in numbers. But Liberia is not Nigeria, or Ghana or South Africa. We have ways to go and the domestic league is no where near those African countries that are doing well as shown in the listed countries above.

Thomas Kodjo, the indigenous Liberian caretaker coach has shown promise and must be commanded for handing Namibia a defeat in Monrovia. That victory advanced Liberia to the Afcons cup preliminary rounds that squared her up against the Super Eagles, bringing home in the process the bronze trophy during the ECOWAS tournament.

But Kodjo, say sports analyst will have to prove himself in the domestic Liberian League to be taken seriously. However, the best of all the foreign coaches was perhaps Antoine Hey, the German national under whose leadership the Liberian national team played even better and looked stronger, but his wins were minuscule.

Had Coach Hey shown patience, the Lone Star would have been a formidable team, say a football enthusiast.  Coach Hey though, was indiscipline and impatient. He and the Liberians party ways immediately, and though the Liberian Football Association asked him to resign, he said no!

The Liberian Football Association immediately turned to the Hungarian tactician Bertalan Bicskei. While Coach Bicskei was keen on building a domestic side strong enough to compete on the international scene, he succumbed to death last year, when suddenly the Italian, Roberto Landi landed the post. He too was fired in February of this year. Coach Landi’s dismissal was apparently based on his poor performances in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

The nail was finally put in the coffin when the  homegrown Super Eagles of Nigeria trounced the Lone Star in a 2-0 defeat in Monrovia in the presence of the Liberian president, at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium.

Why Liberia needs Coach Moo? Under Coach Moo the Liberian national team should flourish. Liberians styled and called their football ‘tabellah,’ where a strong midfield is prioritized and the ball is shared. Liberians have always experimented with Brazilian football. George Weah is a product. It helps that as a player, coach Huh Jung- Moo was also a midfielder, even when Asian players were rarely plying their trade in Europe, he was one of the few who played there in the 1980s.

Moo’s coaching philosophy also teaches a strong midfield, and the ball is distributed well under that value. His teams dictate the pace of play as far as ball possession is concerned. Having coached his native Korea successfully, the team reached the round of sixteen for the first time away from home during the South Africa 2010 World Cup. Moo would bring nothing but knowledge of the game to the Lone Star.

Liberian players are diminutive in size like their Korea counterparts. Moo used that to his advantage in the 2010 world cup, because what they lack in height and weight, the Koreans make up for in the fitness and intensity. With a lot of Liberian players including its best player in Francis Doe playing in the Asian league, he will have plenty of time to see them first hand in action.

Overlooked: Coach Huh Jung-Moo, on several occasions has been passed over for the coaching position for the Taegeuk Warriors. And when he was finally given the job, coach Moo surprised his detractors when he opted for youth, because there are many within the Korean Football Association who wanted experience and older players.

Similarly, Liberia needs to exploit its youthful generation, which includes Patrick Wleh, Sekou Jabateh and Alex Nimley. It is encouraging that Nimley has decided to play for the Lone Stars; having played on the youth level for England. Moo, sports analysts say would use those talents because he proved that during his last job. It is true, that Liberia’s football glory has faded since the departure of George Weah and company.

That result has seen Liberian football taken a nose dive. Moo could work hard to bridge the gap. Coach Huh Jung-Moo learned under Dutch coaches, especially Guus Hiddink, who today remains a hero in Korea for his exploits while in the employs of the Korean Football Association.  It is no secret that South Korea thrived under Dutch coaches especially, Guus Hiddink in particularl. But Moo did win over cynics by leading the team through the qualifying campaign to South Africa with an unbeaten record.

Reports say Moo took temporary charge of South Korea in 1995, overseeing just one game before returning to club management with Chunnam Dragons, where he remained for three years before he was offered the national team job on a full-time basis. Moo’s domestic record was spotty, with his only accomplishment mainly at Chunnam, and that was evident in cup competitions. His record on the league level was considered “ consistently average,” according to football analysts. His work ethics weren’t, but he grew gradually as a coach.

After Guus Hiddink stepped down following his successful run at the 2002 World Cup held in Korean and Japan, the Korean FA appointed a string of foreign coaches, but after snubs from Gerard Houllier and Mick McCarthy, the Korean FA approached Moo, and he accepted. The appointment was not popular with fans and the media considering his previous record, but once the job was offered, he work hard and earned results.

South Africa 2010: The South Korea team went to South Africa optimistic about their chances and Moo was ready for the challenge, even though a lot of doubters thought his appointment was mistaken. Paired in Group B, with Nigeria, Greece and Argentina, it was probably the hardest group in the competition, and nobody gave the South Koreans a chance to qualify in the early group stages, considering that Greece was a former European champion and Nigeria an African powerhouse.

Everyone knew who the Argentinians were: They had Lionel Messi, the world best player, and the legendary Diego Maradona was the man in the dog house! With many predicting Nigeria and Argentina to emerge as group winners, the 59 year old coach and his Taegeuk Warriors took on the Nigerians on June 22 in Durban with an estimated football- crazed crowd of 62, 000 in attendance.

The weather was good! The Taegeuk warriors were agile and confident, they moved the ball fluidly with brisk speed, and frustrated the Super Eagles to a 2-2 draw. First, it was Kalu Uche of the Super Eagles, who tore the net in the 12 minutes. And then, the Koreans fought back wrestling the lead away from them. But Yakubu Aiyegbeni equalized from the penalty spot in the 69th minute. “It’s the first time we are reaching the second round away from home,” Coach Huh Jung-Moo said. “That was our goal. I’m very proud of my players. I feel that my players have played to their full potential.”  He broke the heart of Africans.

The Nigerians were suppose to have their best team. It was star-studded, and they had a competent coach in the Swede, Lars Lagerback, who was also probably the highest paid coach in the competition; when you considered the length of his contract. Moo is fluent in English.

Experience: When South Korea beat Greece 2-0 at the biggest football gala under Moo, it was tactical and showed a dominance of strength that was evident in the quick breaks and a neat-passing play that left their “opponents outnumbered at the back,” say an analyst. Also under Moo, South Korea dominated the Asian game, a feat he also showcased inSouth Africa, before falling to Argentina. Even though he accomplished a lot at the world cup, he resigned after the competition as he said he would to make way for fresh ideas.

Moo is also known for grooming players and making them into stars, an accomplishment he could repeat if he lands the important Lone Star position. He picked up some unknown young players and gave them important positions instead of established stars as his critics wanted, inviting harsh condemnations in the process. After a lackluster performance in the 2000 Summer Olympics, and the 1998 Asian Games, the Korean Football Association showed him the door and hired Guus Hiddink.

Also, before him, the Korean Football Association experimented with Humberto Coelho, Jo Bonfrere, Dick Advocaat and Pim Verbeek. Even though they were all of Dutch origins, they failed to impress like Hiddink, prompting Moo’s return. Coach Huh Jung – Moo’s eye for talent however showed result when the much criticized “nameless players” picked by him became stars.

Park Ji-Sung, though demonstrated promise while Moo was still coach earlier on, and blossomed into the most recognized player in Asia in later years. Also notable were Lee Yong – Pyo and Seol Ki – Hyeon. Besides his heroics in South Africa, he also won Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Coach of the Year Award after leading the national team, the Taegeuk Warriors to 27 consecutive games without a loss.

Coach Moo is well placed to lead the Lone Star to greener pastures, because he has been tested and has shown class. The Liberian Football Association must hire this man for the Lone Star job! Coach Moo is the man for the post. The defeat in Calabar was shameful. It is time to rescue the national team under a coach who have worked with little and produce results. Coach Moo is the man!

Ralph Geeplay can be reached at akklamm@gmail.com

 

Category: Arts & Entertainment, Sports

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