They can meet their family members but are not allowed to be accompanied by them. They can play with their smartphones but are not allowed to post on their social network service (SNS) accounts. These are things that South Korean footballers can and cannot do during the ongoing FIFA World Cup.
While each team at the 2018 World Cup will have its own Do’s and Don’ts, South Korea are one of the teams that certainly aren’t liberal when it comes to rules during the World Cup, reports Yonhap news agency.
For instance, Sweden, South Korea’s Group F opponents, reportedly allowed their players to meet their family members and stay with them until Wednesday.
Choi Young-il, a vice president of the Korea Football Association (KFA), who serves as the chef de mission for the South Korean delegation to the World Cup, said it’s just too early for South Koreans to allow their wives and girlfriends, which people like to call “WAGs,” to travel with players during the tournament.
“Considering public sentiment on the national team, it’s just difficult for us to allow that,” said Choi, a former defender who captained South Korea at the 1998 World Cup.
“If we are a team that can reach the round of 16 regularly, the players meeting their family members and girlfriends at the team hotel may be accepted, but still, we have to think of fans’ eyes.”
Meeting their families and loved ones can help the players get rid of stress going into the tournament.
Defender Kim Young-gwon, who was bombarded by fans in the past after making reckless comments that he couldn’t communicate with teammates well on the pitch because of fans’ noise, said that it was his family that gave him the energy to overcome the hard times.
While South Koreans may need some energy from their loved ones after suffering a painful 1-0 defeat against Sweden, Choi said there’s another problem if the national team allows family members to travel with the players.
“It’s difficult to set such standards on who should travel or not travel with the players,” he said. “There are players who are married and not married, and should we allow only their parents, or just wives?”
“It gets too expensive if we cover the travel cost of the players’ family members,” he said. “And whether we pay or not, fans will criticise us.”
Choi, however, said South Korea aren’t strictly blocking the players from meeting with their loved ones during the tournament.
Choi, 52, said the players these days know how to satisfy their needs to meet their family or girlfriends. Mostly, they use video chat programmes through their mobile device in their rooms.
“Each player gets their own room, and you have no idea what they’re doing in their room with smartphones,” he said. “Unlike in the past, when the players shared a room, the players now can have privacy, and I’m sure they speak with their loved ones through smartphones.”
But smartphone use doesn’t mean that SNS activities are allowed. Even before announcing his 23-man World Cup squad, South Korean head coach Shin Tae-yong emphasized that SNS use would not be allowed.
Another restriction for the South Korean team is drinking. It looks obvious that the players have to control their drinking on their own during the tournament, but there’s no written rule that prohibits drinking for the national team.
“The players could have a glass of beer inside their hotel after the match, but before the match, it’s hard to imagine that they drink alcohol,” he said.