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Ji and Jang leading a change in Korea Republic

  • Women’s football in Korea Republic has suffered from outdated attitudes
  • Views are changing thanks to the likes of Ji Soyun and Jang Selgi
  • Live Blog: France v Korea Republic

By Hounche Chung with Korea Republic

Women’s football has developed against all odds in Korea Republic, where the beautiful game has long been regarded as a symbol of masculinity.

Despite the wave of change that has swept across all areas of society, old attitudes have proved hard to shift in some sections of the country. Traditional sayings such as ‘When three girls meet, a plate is broken into pieces,’ or ‘When a hen crows, the household falls’, which seem to discourage women from reaching for new heights, still persist.

But since the likes of Ji Soyun and Jang Selgi shone on the world stage almost a decade ago, attitudes towards women in football have been slowly changing across the peninsula. And asked about broken plates, crowing hens and outdated attitudes, Soyun took a refreshing attitude.

“I know there’s another Korean saying – ‘You should fasten up your first button’ – that will work for us now,” said the Chelsea midfielder. “Because the first game at any tournament is always important and we’re always talking about how to approach ours against France. The opening match sets the tone of every tournament, and we all know that.”

France are one of the best teams in the world. They’re superior to us in terms of speed and physique, with technically outstanding players as well. The match will be a difficult one, but at the same time playing against such opponents can help take us to a higher level. Besides, we’ve got the fighting spirit of Korean women and that will be our main strength.”

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Meanwhile, Soyun’s friend and team-mate Selgi, whose name translates literally as ‘wisdom’, spoke sagely about striking a balance between youth and experience, and defence and attack.

“I’m satisfied with the fact that we’ve grown well enough to support our senior players, and I also hope we’ll be able to help the team as a whole,” said Jang, who converted the crucial spot-kick that won the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2010.

“I think we used to sit back and defend when we faced stronger sides, but now we’ve got trust in each other to go out there and attack our opponents,” added the versatile full-back. “That said, we’ve been focusing on our defensive organisation since we set up the training camp, so I don’t think our weakness is at the back anymore.”

As our interview was nearing its end, Jang became emotional and spoke with tears in her eyes.

“Women’s football is not as famous or popular in Korea compared to Europe, where the players seem to have more pride and professionalism,” she said. “But if we can perform well in this World Cup, I think young girls back home will look up to us and realise that they can play the game after all.”

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