[OP-ED] South Korea's Best Footballers: Part 1 - Cha Bum Kun

Jay Yim, Aug. 21, 2018, 12:03 p.m.

South Korea has produced many impressive footballers over the years; from Cha Bum Kun to Park Ji Sung and now Son Heung Min.

Today I will go down a multi-part series to showcase each of the respective footballer's profiles.

So let's start from the past and come down to the present.

Cha Bum Kun ("Tscha Bum"/"Cha Boom")

Club Career (1970 - 1989)

Cha started his club and soccer career at his time at Kyungshin High School FC in 1970. In 1972, Cha attended Korea University and after he graduated, he started his senior career with Seoul Trust Bank FC in 1976. Then in October of that year, he joined South Korean Air Force FC due to military service.

At age 25, Cha caught the attention of Friedel Rausch while playing for the national team and began playing for Bundesliga after completing his military service. In December 1978, Cha spent less than a month at SV Darmstadt 98, and then moved over to Eintracht Frankfurt. However, on January 5, 1979, Cha had to go back to South Korea to finish his spare military service.

Finally, after being fully discharged, he immediately joined Eintracht Frankfurt in July 1979. Cha made an immediate impact by scoring in three consecutive games. Frankfurt went on to win the UEFA Cup in the 1979-80 season and Cha was awarded Man of the Match in the final. Cha became Germany's third-highest-paid footballer.

In the 1981 season, Cha suffered a near career-ending knee injury. However, he healed up in time for the German Cup final. In that final match, Cha Bum Kun scored in a 3-1 victory for Frankfurt. In 1983, Cha Bum Kun was transfered to Bayer Leverkusen, which was ironically the team he played against when he suffered his knee injury.

At Leverkusen, he won a second UEFA Cup in 1988 where he scored a dramatic equaliser against Espanyol to tie the game 3-3.

Finally, in 1989, Cha Bum Kun hung up his boots after retiring from a long Bundesliga career.

Final Club Stats:

Appearances - 372

Goals - 121

Club Achievements:

1) Ninth player in history to win the UEFA Cup with different teams

2) Held the Bundesliga record for "most goals scored by a non-German player" for 14 years (98 goals)

3) 17 league goals in 1985-86 season is the highest goal-tally achieved by an Asian player in Bundesliga history

International Career (1970 - 1986)

Cha started his international career in 1970 when he joined the U-20 South Korea National team. He participated in the 1971 and 1972 AFC Youth Championship. In 1972, Cha made his debut for the senior national team.

He played at the 1972 Asian cup where he scored a goal and reached the final before the team lost to Iran. Cha was part of the national team in the 1978 Asian Games where the team won the gold medal jointly with North Korea because the final ended in a 0-0 draw.

Cha Bum Kun's final international days was the 1986 FIFA World Cup finals in Mexico. Cha was already retired from international duty but was persuaded to come back to the team for the tournament.

Final International Stats:

Appearances - 135

Goals - 58

International Achievements:

1) South Korea's all-time leading goal scorer with 58 goals in international A matches

Managerial Career:

Cha moved into management with K-League's Ulsan Hyundai Horang-i from 1991-1994.

In January 1997, he was called to coach the national team and led the nation to the 1998 FIFA World Cup tournament. However, after a tragic 5-0 defeat to The Netherlands in their second group game resulted in Cha being sacked as coach.

He blamed the Korea Football Association for the bad performance, stating there was lack of bonuses and accusing the pro football games in Korea were fixed. In response, the KFA placed a five-year ban on Cha and soon after he left the country with his wife.

Cha took up a commentator position with MBC after he spent 18 months coaching Shenzhen Ping'an in China. At the end of 2003, he returned to coaching when he was offered to manage the Suwon Samsung Bluewings.

He found immediate success with the team when he and the team lifted the 2004 K-League championship. This was an achievement he ranked as even better than lifting the UEFA as a player in 1988.

On June 6, 2010, he resigned as manager of the Suwon Samsung Bluewings.

Managerial Stats:

Suwon Samsung Bluewings:

K-League 1 - 2004, 2008

Korean FA Cup - 2009

Korean League Cup - 2005, 2008

Korean Super Cup - 2005

A3 Champions Cup - 2005

Pan-Pacific Championship - 2009

Managerial Achievements:

AFC Coach of the Year - 1997

K-League 1 Manager of the Year - 2004, 2008

Korean FA Cup Best Manager - 2009

Cha Bum Kun is a legend that paved the way for many other star players both domestically and globally. That is the end of Cha Bum Kun's football profile. In part 2, we will explore another Cha footballer, who happens to be Cha Bum Kun's son, Cha Du Ri.

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