Ahn Young-Hak

Your team’s first match is against Brazil. What is your attitude towards this big match? Brazil are, as you know, extremely famous for their football and they are one of the greatest teams in the world. So I want to play with a challenging spirit and a never-say-die attitude whilst playing with full commitment.

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Kaka is one of the famous players in the Brazilian squad. How much information do you have about him? Since I have watched how he plays many times through televised games, I have a good insight into Kaka. I don’t see him as having any weak points and he has all the attributes a football player requires. I get the feeling that even when he makes a mistake, he never gives up. I think he is one of the top players.

Ivory Coast are regarded as being a very physical side. How are you planning to counter this? Personally I know this team is really strong. Each individual player is exceptionally good, and so team play will be extremely important, with all 11 members working with each other in order to defend against the ability of the Ivorian players.

It will feel almost like a home match for Ivory Coast. Do you think they may have a home-game advantage? Yes, I think they will definitely have an advantage. The environment, opportunities and large number of supporters will be a huge boost for their team.

What are Salomon Kalou’s strengths and weaknesses? If you were to ask me about his strength, I think it would be his pace. He is a very fast player, and he always causes problems for the opposition’s defense when attacking. As for his weak point... I really don’t think he has any. If he has one I haven’t been able to find out exactly what it is at the moment.

North Korea had a match against Portugal in 1966. Since then, how do you think both countries have changed in terms of football? I haven’t had many opportunities to watch football at that time. However, Portugal always favoured the attacking approach, and even now they are playing a very attractive attacking game. I think we also enjoyed an attacking approach at the time. But now, compared to before, I think we have adopted a more defensive style.

Could you tell us a bit about Kim Jong-Hun’s managing style? How does he treat the players and how has he been trying to pull out the strengths of each player? In whatever situation, he seems to always be calm and gentle. Even when the team is in difficult situations he keeps in control of himself and talks to us in a reassuring manner. So we are really relaxed under his style of leadership. He regards players as his own children and always gives encouragement to players rather than placing burdens on their shoulders.

Do you think quality of life for Africans will be improved after World Cup games? How is it possible? This is the first World Cup being held in an African country, and by watching a large tournament like this first-hand, don’t you think there could be children who are inspired to have similar aspirations?

Do you know the match between North Korea and Italy in the 1966 World Cup [North Korea shocked the world by winning 1-0, then raced into a 3-0 lead over Portugal before losing 5-3 in the quarter-final]? Yes, it is a legendary story that every Korean person will definitely know. I do not know the specific details. But I know that the North Korean football team at the time was a very strong side, and I think it was due to the many friendly games that they had to play in Europe; playing against the top European players let them improve as well. So I think the victory over Italy cannot be thought of as a fluke, but due to the strength of the North Korean team at the time.

You mentioned that North Korea has adopted a more defensive stance now compared to 1966. Do you think North Korea should adopt an attacking approach? It’s not something that I can influence. The most important thing is to win the match, so whether it is through an attacking or defensive approach, winning the game is of main importance.

Interview: June 2010.

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