Cho So-hyun, captain of South Korean's women's national team, says she feels “ashamed of improvements” in women’s football at home, believing things are “moving backwards”.
The midfielder will lead her team out at the Asian Cup this month, looking to deliver success after the country failed to reach the knockout rounds four years ago.
Cho, who plays her club football in England with Tottenham, sees the tournament as “the best opportunity” to show how good her team can be, despite her feelings about the game in Korea.
What has been said?
Speaking to GOAL in an exclusive interview, Cho said: “I feel ashamed of improvements of K-football because I feel like it's moving backwards since every Korean young pro player is moving abroad.
“Young players who are playing elite and pro, the number is not really high. In the long term, I don't think it shows high improvement.
“The women's football teams in Europe are highly improving, but compared to Asian leagues, the programme of training is absolutely different.
“For the self-improvement [for Korean players], I recommend to go to European leagues. I'm not saying that Asian players are not good at playing soccer, but I want to say to improve the skills and improve the physical [abilities], to improve both ways, I think it's much better to go and play and experience a team abroad.”
‘I wanted to inform people of the situation in Korea’
Cho is one of three Korean stars who play for a club in England, alongside Chelsea midfielder Ji So-yun and Brighton forward Lee Geum-min.
Asked if she believes there is anything players like herself and her high-profile team-mates can do to help the situation at home, she said spoke about the structure around elite teams and the dense football pyramid that England has in comparison to Korea.
“In England, the local soccer teams, they're always being competitive and that always helped them to improve more,” she explained. “If we have local soccer teams, it means that we can also improve the local financial stuff and so on.
“The boys’ soccer teams in Korea, they have various types, from the amateur and the elite. They are trying their best to figure out which player do they have, but in Korea for the women's soccer team, I don't think they are trying their best.”
Cho was speaking from the SingaCup, an event in Singapore that gives young boys and girls the chance to participate in several footballing activities. She explained one reason she got involved was to shine a light on how things are at home for young footballers.
“I wanted to truly inform [people of] how the current situation in Korea is,” the 33-year-old said. “I was also wondering how the foreigners are looking at the Korean soccer team as well.”
Cho and her team will have the chance to show the potential Korea has this month and how good it could be with more support, with the Asian Cup to kick off on January 20.
Korea will face Vietnam a day later in their opening fixture, with Myanmar also in Group C with them, alongside reigning champions Japan.
“I think this is the best opportunity that I have,” Cho said. “If I can get the girls far, it means I can show the power of an Asian women's football team. I really want to try my best for that.”