“I love watching them kick the ball around. They’re all my lovely grandchildren.”
A smile spreads across the ‘old man’s’ face as he looks at the field. Cha Bum-geun, 70, is a former national soccer team coach who turned 70 this year. Cha, who is synonymous with Korean soccer, now lives in Goheung, Jeollanam-do, where he enjoys teaching children. Age is just a number when it comes to the soccer passion of “Grandpa Cha Boom,” who teaches his grandchildren.
We met him at the FC Cha Boom Football Festival event at Palyoung Gymnasium in Goheung, Jeollanam-do on the 26th. “While I was enjoying the countryside in Goheung, I opened a soccer class (FC Cha Boom) earlier this year,” he said. “It’s been a year since I joined forces with Goheung County and started teaching soccer to 85 local elementary school students in grades 1-3 twice a week for free.”
Goheung County, South Jeolla Province, like many other rural areas, is struggling with a plummeting number of children. With a population of just over 60,000, there are only about 300 elementary school students. In grades 1-3, there are about 150, meaning that half of the lower elementary school students in the county learn soccer from Cha. The Goheung County budget for soccer classes is 50 million won a year. Cha uses this money to provide the children with uniforms and soccer shoes, and to cover other expenses such as renting a training center. ‘Cha Boom Grandpa’ is also organizing a weekend league in Muju, Jeollabuk-do. Next year, he plans to open a similar program in Yeongdeok, North Gyeongsang Province.
Cha’s interest in rural children stems from his realization that soccer can contribute to community revitalization. “In Europe, which I experienced firsthand in Germany, the social atmosphere was healthy and clear. It was great to see whole villages enjoying sports, including soccer, together to build physical and mental health, as well as a sense of community.” “Korea needs a strategy to revitalize local communities around sports,” he said.
Cha opened a soccer class named after him in Seoul in 1988, just before he retired from active duty. After retiring the following year, he turned down coaching offers from several German Bundesliga clubs and returned home to run the soccer class. At a time when most sports, including soccer, were centered around academy sports, Cha’s soccer class stood out as the first club soccer team in Korea. 토토사이트
“When I traveled to Japan to participate in the Japan Cup with the national soccer team in the 1980s, I was shocked to see Japanese children kicking the ball on the grass field near our training center. The grass, equipment, and training programs were all top-notch,” he said. “I felt like I was hit in the head with a hammer when a local official told me, ‘We are teaching our children in the best environment with the goal of surpassing Korean football in 30 years, even though it is impossible now. “After that, I started thinking about bringing the German youth soccer club system to Korea for the future of Korean soccer, and the soccer class named after me is the result,” Cha added.