In 2022, Ulsan Hyundai won the K-League championship for the first time in 17 years, and the protagonists became ‘enemies’ in less than half a year. Hong Myung-bo, coach of Ulsan Hyundai, and Japanese midfielder Jun Amano, who changed into Jeonbuk Hyundai uniform this season, became a hot potato among soccer fans by fighting the truth through the media over the transfer.
Amano played an active role as a rental player in Ulsan in the 2022 season, recording double-digit attack points with 11 goals and 2 assists in a total of 38 appearances in various competitions. In particular, Ulsan was able to succeed in winning the K-League 1 after 17 years because it not only scored 9 goals and 1 assist in the league alone, but also played a role as a link in team game management beyond attack points.
Ulsan recognized Amano’s performance and pushed for an extension of the lease contract with the original team, Yokohama, and the player agreed, and the renewal seemed to be in a positive mood. However, Amano suddenly turned to Jeonbuk Hyundai, leaving Ulsan fans in great shock. Leaving Ulsan was unexpected, but Jeonbuk is a rival that competes with Ulsan for the championship every year in the K-League. According to media reports, Jeonbuk is known to have offered Amano an annual salary of more than 100,000 dollars (approximately 125 million won) rather than Ulsan.
Up to this point, the Ulsan club and fans may be disappointed, but it is a common occurrence in the soccer world. Pro is a business, and it’s no surprise that players move to teams that offer better terms. However, as director Hong Myung-bo recently shot Amano intensely through a media interview, the repercussions grew.
“Transfer for money, the worst among Japanese players”
When asked about Amano’s transfer at an open press conference held at the Ulsan Clubhouse on January 11, Hong said, “Originally pros are driven by money. But Amano said, ‘Money doesn’t matter’ and wanted to stay. He left for Jeonbuk looking only at money. If he had talked about money from the beginning, he could have helped the negotiations. When he talked to us, he said money was not important, but in the end, he moved to Jeonbuk Hyundai because of money.”
Even Hong Myung-bo’s sudden acceleration did not stop here. Hong Myung-bo said, “Amano lied and went to Jeonbuk. He is the worst Japanese player I’ve ever met.” Hong Myung-bo’s remarks revealing blatant hostility toward Amano have been featured in the media and are a hot topic in both Korea and Japan.
Each person may have a different consensus about the claim that ‘Amano is the worst Japanese player ever’, but at least the fact that Hong Myung-bo’s criticism is the level of public remarks aimed at a specific player is ‘the greatest ever’. Those who listened to the intense remarks that could only be made to Cheolcheon were also shocked.
Of course, from the manager’s point of view, it would be uncomfortable for anyone to have a key player from the team until last season transfer to a rival team. Also, if it is true that Amano acted in disbelief during the negotiations, as Hong insisted, then it is possible to criticize and raise issues.
However, doing something morally worthy of criticism and causing a legal problem are on a different level. A player has not committed an act that would cause serious social controversy, such as private life-Drunk Driving, etc., and cases where transfers like Amano are common in the soccer world simply because the conditions do not match each other. However, director Hong Myung-bo made Amano a ‘criticism and personal attack’ that went far beyond the level of legitimate criticism.
There is also a golden road to criticism 바카라. To define a player as a ‘liar’ in public and attack by citing ‘nationality’ is close to obvious defamation. Moreover, there are many cases in the soccer world where discord was caused by transfer to a rival team or financial problems, but it is difficult to find a case where a manager in a public position, not a general fan, disparaged a player in this way.
Even if it is true that a player has acted worthy of criticism, this is only a matter of contract between the individual and the club. If a Korean player playing for an overseas club brought up his nationality that he had a conflict over a transfer issue, and the manager of his former team criticized him for saying, “He is the worst Korean player ever,” who would accept it?
The reason why Hong Myung-bo’s remarks are even more dangerous is that it not only undermines the player’s reputation, but it can also have a negative impact on the rivalry and fandom of both teams. Even if there was a feeling of sadness during the transfer process, the fact that Amano is Ulsan’s winning contributor does not change.
Also, Ulsan and Jeonbuk are competing teams that will have to face off several times for the championship in the same K-League next season. However, if the coach blatantly shoots a specific player from the opposing team, it can be like taking a ‘coordinate’ by stimulating the fandom, and it can also overheat the competitive structure of both teams next season more than necessary.
‘Mature response’ Amano wins by decision
Amano also finally expressed his position. Coincidentally, on the 12th, a day later, a press conference was held in Jeonbuk-do. Amano, who appeared at the event wearing a Jeonbuk uniform, refuted coach Hong Myung-bo’s argument point by point. Amano said, “I was shocked that coach Hong made such a statement through the media, and I was disappointed, not disappointed.”
Amano explained, “Ulsan never sincerely proposed negotiations with me. Ulsan made a formal offer to me in Jeonbuk and set up a meeting only a day later.” According to Amano’s claim, he wanted to stay in Ulsan and talked to manager Hong, but Ulsan’s negotiating attitude was passive, so he eventually chose Jeonbuk, which offered negotiations more seriously. If Amano’s claim is true, it seems that the key issue will be whether Ulsan really showed a willingness to catch Amano.
It is still unknown which of Hong Myung-bo and Amano is telling the truth, but at least in terms of ‘mature and adult response’, Amano was a clear decision winner. Amano commented, “Coach Hong Myung-bo is the teacher who brought me to the K-League and a comrade who won the championship, and I respect him.” While logically refuting the opponent’s argument, he refrained from direct attacks on Hong Myung-bo and kept his manners until the end. This is in stark contrast to Hong Myung-bo, who was biased towards his personal feelings and made one-sided claims and rants about the player.
Regardless of the truth of the transfer, Ulsan and coach Hong Myung-bo should publicly apologize for the personal attack by mentioning Amano’s nationality. This is not an issue between the coach and individual players, but an issue related to the dignity of the league level. In the world of sports business, where numerous stories are overflowing, if the back story is taken as an issue and even the extreme end is justified, the soccer field will become a mess.