“I believe that the decision to establish the WE League two years ago made today’s Japanese women’s soccer.”
This is what Haruna Takada, president of the Japan Women’s Professional Soccer League, said at the WE (Women Empowerment) league media briefing on the 7th. Japan is on a winning streak at the FIFA 2023 Australia-New Zealand World Cup. In the 안전놀이터 group stage, even strong Spain defeated Spain 4-0 and advanced to the round of 16 with three consecutive wins, and won 3-1 against Norway to advance to the quarterfinals.
The Korean women’s football team, which was eliminated in the round of 16 after losing 3 matches in France four years ago, suffered two defeats in a row against Colombia and Morocco in this tournament, and then drew again with Germany 1-1. Like the starkly mixed joys and sorrows, the past four years between Japan and Korea were very different, if different. As the saying goes, ‘Failure to prepare is to prepare for failure’, the decline of Korean women’s soccer is a predicted result of failing to keep pace with the global women’s soccer world, which has developed at the speed of light over the past four years.
Japan started discussing making the league professional immediately after the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. Japan, the 2011 Women’s World Cup champion and 2015 Women’s World Cup runner-up, lost to the Netherlands 1-2 in the Round of 16 in France and was eliminated. Through the professionalization of their home league and the creation of the women’s euro, they struggled against the European continent, which had evolved in all aspects of performance, speed, physical, and technology. None of the Asian countries advanced to the quarterfinals.
Japan paid attention to the remarkable development of England after the launch of the professional league in 2018, which reached the semifinals of the French tournament. Premier League teams such as Manchester City, Arsenal, and Chelsea directly run women’s soccer teams, incorporating advanced know-how in men’s soccer. The Japan Football Association (JFA) established an innovative strategy immediately after returning to Korea and put it into practice. The women’s soccer professional league preparatory committee was launched. At the time, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun emphasized the need for professionalism in an article titled ‘Sense of crisis about the current situation, promotion of professionalism, and banditry of women’s soccer tasks’. A JFA official also expressed their urgency, saying, “Japanese women’s football has stagnated. At this point, if we do not try to change, we will never develop.”
In the fall of 2021, the ‘Part 1’ Pro League WE League, consisting of 11 teams, was launched. There is also a rule that at least one of the executives of the club must be a woman, and that at least half of the staff of each club within three years must be occupied by women. The traditional Japanese women’s business soccer Nadeshiko League was divided into 1-2 divisions, each with 12 teams and 10 teams. The World Cup four years later, Japan, which we met again, was more than a ‘transformation’. The young 24.8-year-old squad, the young guns who tasted the French Under-20 World Cup championship, ran fearlessly.
The difference between Japan and Korea was ‘execution’. The Korea Football Association also held a symposium on the development of women’s soccer right after losing three matches in the World Cup in France and promised improvement measures. Various discussions such as governance integration, professionalization of the WK League, and expansion of the base were poured out. But it was an empty fire. As the bidding for the 2023 South-North Women’s World Cup was in vain, interest quickly faded. Nothing has changed from 4 years ago. The number of registered players has decreased to about 1,400. The popularity of ‘goal hitters (goal hitters)’ is only the popularity of ‘soccer entertainment’, not women’s soccer.
Launched in 2009, the WK League was once the pride of Korean women’s soccer, but it fell behind the global trend. Just like 14 years ago, the salary cap for the 3rd or 10th year is tied to 50 million won, and except for some popular teams such as Incheon Hyundai Steel, they play their own league in a bleak stadium with less than 100 spectators. Professionalization is a global trend and the way to go. Following the launch of women’s professional soccer in the United States in 2001, the professional leagues in England, France, Germany, Sweden and Spain in 2018, followed by the Italian women’s Serie A in July of last year. Morocco, the ‘North African ambush’ that defeated Korea and advanced to the round of 16, also has a 1st and 2nd division pro league. The Korea Football Association and the Professional Football Federation should put their heads together. Like Ji So-yeon’s Suwon FC Women, the K-League’s women’s soccer and youth teams are desperately needed. The Sports Basic Act enacted last year stipulates ‘everyone’s sport’. It is time for K-League leading clubs such as Ulsan Hyundai and Jeonbuk Hyundai, as well as K-League clubs owned by local government heads to become professional in women’s soccer. At the time of the launch of the WE League, JFA President Kojo Kohma said, “The launch of the women’s soccer professional league is not just for the development of women’s soccer. The goal is to contribute to creating a sustainable society by promoting women’s participation in society and expanding diversity and choices. “The blueprint has been revealed. “I’ve been arguing for a long time. We can win the World Cup even if we continuously invest 1/10 of the men’s soccer budget in women’s soccer,” said former member of the Taereung Athletes’ Village and “Sarajevo table tennis legend.” 2010 Ulsan Cheongun Middle School, Hyundai Information Science High School, Ulsan University of Science, Chung Mong-joon, honorary chairman of KFA, who founded the Incheon Hyundai Steel team one after another, also said, “In soccer, women will dominate the world stage faster than men.” “The athletic community’s interest in women’s soccer is too low. In the United States, the Women’s World Cup was held in 2003 after the 1994 Men’s World Cup, but in the US, they said that the Women’s World Cup was more fun. Korea still lacks awareness or base.” had said
Korean women’s soccer head coach Colin Bell’s remarks about “total innovation in the women’s soccer system” were just wrong in the ‘timing’ and not in the message. “Most of the players in the WK league thought, ‘It’s good if we win. It’s not bad if we lose.’ The system, manpower, and players must all be changed. Schools must actively nurture female soccer players and create a structure that encourages them to go to teams under the K-League. Youth and girl players aged 12 to 16 must frequently play matches. Reorganize the structure You have to have a clear philosophy and vision. I hear a lot of people comparing Japan and Korea. Japan has a clear philosophy and a 30-year vision.”
On the 7th, ahead of the opening of the third season of the Japanese women’s soccer professional league ‘WE League’, league technical advisor Michihisa Kano, coach of the U-19 women’s national team, said in a media briefing, “All four goals against Spain were scored by WE League players. I did,” he said proudly. “Through professionalization, players became obsessed with the game, flexibly changed the system according to various opponents and situations, and became able to play multiplayer. There are noticeably more players who sprint at 30 km/h with strong forward pressure. It is thanks to the environment that can focus on soccer through professionalization.”