South Korea camps in the city to watch and learn from the best

South Korea is in a rebuilding phase and coach Shin Seok Kyo had decided that watching the best in action was the ideal way to prepare his team for further challenges.

After finishing ninth in the Hero Hockey World League Semi-Final, South Korea has travelled to India for the Finals, only to watch and gain experience.   -  Getty Images

It is common for international coaches at the highest level to travel across the world and observe teams in action regardless of their own participation. However, it is less common to see an entire team travel to a competition and spend a fortnight, only to watch and gain experience.

But South Korea is in a rebuilding phase and coach Shin Seok Kyo had decided that watching the best in action was the ideal way to prepare his team for further challenges.

And so, the Korean team has been camping in the city since the third week of November, playing practice games against local sides and Argentina and watching the top-eight teams at the Hockey World League Finals.

Regaining lost ground

The immediate target for Kyo is the Asian Games next year. The long-term aim is to build a side that would be able to reclaim its spot among the top-10 in the world.

Having finished fourth at the recent Asia Cup and missing out on the World Cup next year, to be held at the same venue here, the Asiad would be the only big challenge for the side in 2018. Among the strongest sides in Asia till some time back, Korea is currently languishing at 14th in the world.

“We have two targets to come here – one, prepare for the Asian Games in Jakarta. Two, we have a young side. There are around 10 boys who are experienced in our side but there are other 10 who are new and inexperienced. It is a good chance for them to watch the top teams and gain exposure. We have been enjoying our training, playing practice matches and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the big teams here,” Kyo said watching Belgium upset Olympic champion Argentina 3-2.

Interestingly, the Koreans had beaten Argentina by an identical margin in their practice game. “It was really encouraging for my boys (and) even though it was just a practice game, we gained a lot of confidence. This is good preparation for Jakarta, which will also be an Olympic qualifier,” Kyo said.

The visitor also played two matches against local outfits East Coast Railway and would return on Monday after having watched all teams play.