Korean teenager joins Spanish youth football team
A Korean teenage football player has joined a youth club under a top-division Spanish team, officials announced Tuesday.
Sim Seong-ho, 14, is the latest member of the U-14 squad under Real Valladolid in Spain. The Busan-native left wingback is a beneficiary of the national youth development project by Hong Myung-bo Scholarship Foundation, run by the former Korean national team captain and the current Olympic football team head coach.
Since July 2008, Hong's foundation has been sending teenagers overseas to train with youth teams under top Brazilian and Spanish clubs. Sim went to train with Athletic Bilbao in August last year before getting recruited by Real Valladolid, officials said. He is the first player from the program to join a foreign youth club.
"I am grateful for this opportunity from Coach Hong's foundation," Sim said at a press conference in Seoul. "I will try to become a good, hardworking player in Spain. My goal is to stay in Spain throughout and make a professional debut there."
Pedro Coria, director of youth programs for Real Valladolid, accompanied Sim on the podium. He said the club will spare no efforts to help the teenager make adjustments on and off the field in Spain.
"I hope Sim can start enjoying football quickly in Spain and develop into a great player," Coria said through an interpreter. "This is only the beginning for him. He's still growing as a player and as a person. I personally would like to see him become the first Korean player to go from the youth club to the senior team."
Real Valladolid was promoted to the first division La Liga for this season, after spending the previous two seasons in the second tier.
Hong, who also attended the press conference, said Sim has great football senses that belie his age and can provide some stability on the backline.
Hong added the goal of his development program reaches beyond producing talented football players.
"The primary goal is to let these young players go overseas and experience new things to become good players," he said. "But I also believe that experiences they gain living and playing in a foreign country can also lay a solid foundation for further development of our football. I want to give more players a chance to play in better environments."
The foundation said three players previously spent time with Santos FC in Brazil; six with Corinthians in Brazil; and three, including Sim, with Athletic Bilbao in Spain. It said three more junior players will leave for Spain at the end of this month.
In addition to the project, Hong's foundation has awarded scholarships to less privileged youth players since 2002 and has helped develop a number of national team players, both male and female, on youth and senior levels. (Yonhap)