The K League International Youth Cup Incheon 2023, an ambitious program organized by the Korea Professional Football Association to celebrate its 40th anniversary, has come to an end to great acclaim. The tournament was organized by the KFA to promote international exchange among K League youth. From the 3rd to the 8th, six teams were divided into two groups. On the 9th, the final and ranking matches were held. FC Seoul, Suwon Samsung, Jeonbuk Hyundai, Pohang Steelers, Incheon United, and Bupyeong Go competed in South Korea. These are the first through fourth place winners of the K League Youth Club of the Year and the two host clubs. From Europe, Real Sociedad (Spain), Valencia (Spain), RSC Anderlecht (Belgium), and Wolverhampton (England). Asia was represented by Tokyo Verdi (Japan) and Chonburi FC (Thailand). After an intense battle on the pitch, Anderlecht were crowned the inaugural champions.
It was a momentous occasion. After the tournament, foreign coaches and players alike were full of praise. The key was experience. Anderlecht coach Rene Peter said: “Experience is important for players of this age. We have mainly played in Europe. It’s important to see how other countries’ youth players train and perform on other continents. We came to Korea from Brussels via Qatar. It was a long flight, more than 24 hours, and I had to deal with jet lag. It’s a great experience and a great opportunity for young athletes to go through life. Gaining a lot of experience was more valuable than winning.”
Baek Seung-won (Pohang), who participated in the tournament, said, “I had a lot of good experiences. I got to play against overseas teams that I wouldn’t normally play against. It was good to play on natural grass instead of artificial turf. Playing against European teams, I felt that I lacked physical and technical skills. I want to compensate for these problems and become a better player.” There was also a ‘thumbs up’ from a foreign player. Runner-up Hikaru Tsuchiya (Tokyo Verdi) said, “It was a great experience that I don’t usually get to do. I have very little experience playing against overseas teams. It was fun to experience tense situations every day. It was very hard to play against a physically strong European player. I don’t think we lost mentally. Korea was a very strong team with good ball handling skills and a strong mentality.”
The KFA has been continuously promoting international exchanges to improve the international competitiveness of the K League Youth. The league has sent its youth teams to many international competitions, including the J League International Cup (2015-2019), Qatar Al-Qasr International Cup (2019), and MLS GA Cup (2019). From 2015 to 2019, the organization also invited J-League and MLS teams to compete in the K League Youth Championship Summer Tournament. However, the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to organize large-scale international tournaments overseas due to special circumstances. Instead, in 2022 and 2023, the KFA collaborated with the Spanish Primera Liga Secretariat to organize the “K League X La Liga Training Stage,” a series of training and practice matches in Madrid, Spain.
The professional soccer league went a step further and organized an international tournament in Korea. On-site coach seminars were held to exchange training methods and more. After the tournament, the team also organized a cultural tour of Korea’s landmarks, including Gyeongbokgung Palace, Lotte Tower, and Hangang Park. It was a great way to showcase Korea on and off the field.
“The quality of the tournament was very high,” says Coach Peter. We’ve been to a lot of youth tournaments abroad. We’ve been to a tournament in China. It was a different level 메이저토토사이트 of competition. I didn’t expect this level of teams. We won, but honestly, it wasn’t easy. There were so many great teams, especially at the Korean youth level. I was very impressed with the potential of the Korean players. I think Korea will be an interesting team in the future. I really liked the way the organizers and officials organized the tournament, and if I had the chance to do it again, I would definitely participate.”