For most people in Europe, January with its long and cold nights is a quiet time after the excesses of Christmas and New Year Holidays. Football is different however as the January transfer window may not always ensure activity but it at least delivers thousands of reports and rumours about possible deals and moves.
This flood strengthens as the end of the month approaches. It is the mid-season time in Europe when clubs are often on the look-out for imports that can save or kick-start their fortunes. The biggest and the best teams tend to save their shopping until the summer when new additions have time and the pre-season training period in which to adapt to their new surroundings.
But with the window open just for a few Keluaran HK days more before it closes until the summer; it is natural that all clubs and scouts keep their eyes open. This leads to all kinds of fun and games in the Korean media. This month has been quieter than Januarys of the past but the deadline is approaching fast.
Maybe too fast for Yeom Ki-hoon. This talented attacker, who also has an ability to pick up injuries on a regular basis, came into prominence in 2006 during Jeonbuk Motors’ successful attempt to become the champions of Asia.
Then 23, Yeom’s future looked very bright before his annual injury slowed his development. He has still played over 20 times for the national team and has already come close to a move to England. On the radar of English clubs since 2007, one Premier League team arrange to scout Yeom in a national team match in the spring of that year only for his lack of fitness to make the trip a waste of time.
After moving from Jeonbuk to Ulsan Horang-I, he found himself training with West Bromich Albion in December 2008. After a few days club Ulsan claimed that he had gone to the club, based in the city of Birmingham, without their knowledge. Whatever the truth, West Brom didn’t want the bad publicity and made sure that he returned to Korea’s shipbuilding capital to build some bridges.
Now there are rumours of interest from a neighbour of West Brom – Birmingham City. City is not a club about to slip out of the Premier League but this season has instead been going along nicely in the top half of the standings. Not only that but the Blues now have a new owner in the shape of Hong Kong tycoon Carson Yeung. This businessman has money to spend and a plan to extend Birmingham’s appeal in East Asia. Signing a Korean player would be a good start and as Yeom has good connections with agents in the UK, he is a natural choice.
There is another Korean star who has already made the European move, though this one didn’t go widely reported. Teenager Suk Hyun-jun impressed in a trial with Dutch powerhouse Ajax. The four-time European champion signed the attacker and he could be in line for a first game very soon.
“Hyun Jun Suk is only 18 years old and offered his services to Ajax by himself. We didn’t scout him or anything. Therefore, I’m not sure whether he’s ready to make his debut yet,” Ajax boss Martin Jol said in Amsterdam last week.
“It would be rather strange for Suk to make his debut this weekend, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done something like that. Suk is a good player and he always does his utmost.”
On Thursday night rugby star Gareth Thomas hosted a coming-out party with friends and gay stars including Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf) at a Soho nightspot. Former Wales captain Thomas, 35, admitted he was gay late last year and the reaction has been, well…no-one’s really bothered.
Rugby, particularly in Thomas’ homeland, has a macho identity not unlike the jock culture of American football. So when it steals a march on soccer in accepting gay players, why isn’t FIFA busy with initiatives to encourage sexual, as well as racial tolerance in the people’s game? It seems like every sport but soccer has taken the plunge, and I can’t think of any footballers beyond Justin Fashanu, and he only openly came out after retiring. While there are degrees of intolerance in society, football once more does its own thing. To be fair the Football Association and certain clubs have clamped down on homophobic fans in the last couple of years, which is certainly a good start.
In Britain the game is glaringly behind society, where civil partnerships are in law, gay men occupy prominent positions in politics, TV and the arts and even the Queen’s poet laureate is a bisexual. Elton John has been a football man for years but an England & Premier League player debating the issue seems as far as we have got towards having gay players universally accepted.
Endless internet rumours, which over here oddly always seem to involve black players from London clubs, is a silly schoolboy jape played by adults, but famous gay activist Peter Tatchell didn’t help by pointedly telling the press on Thursday how surprised he was that Sol Campbell and Cristiano Ronaldo had not turned up to the party.
“Everybody here tonight is celebrating that the world is changing,” said Thomas. “We are here to send the message that it’s OK to be a sportsman and it is also OK to be gay.” Except that it is plainly not yet in the world’s biggest sport.