With the rising interest in women soccer, more and more work has to be done to organize and manage the increasing number of international matches and women soccer teams. The Korea Women Soccer Association (KWSA) that will take charge of this is scheduled to be launched in March.
Women soccer in Korea dates back to 1949 when the first official match opened in Dongdaemun. But since then, lack of interest and participation has left women soccer going practically nowhere. Unlike other ball games where men and women teams start off and develop on a relatively equal footing, soccer has long been an almost exclusively male sports in Korea. Then in the 90s, after the Beijing Asian Games officially adopted women soccer as one of the games, Korea organized a national women soccer team for the first time, signaling a second beginning for women soccer in Korea.
The effects of the successful US Women's Worldcup spread not only in the US but also throughout the rest of the world. Market potential, rapid growth, easier competition compared to men's soccer, and the fact Korean women are traditionally better at ball games than their male counterparts, all added up to create optimistic prospects for women soccer. This in turn led to the Korea Football Association's long-term master plan for women soccer.
Recent developments have also raised the possibility that women soccer can be taken up as a leisure sport. Housewives' soccer teams have sprung up in several districts and YMCA branches. And a portal site for Internet users interested in women soccer (www.womensoccer.co.kr) has opened to provide information and enlist members.
Currently, Korean women soccer ranks fourth in Asia after China, Japan and North Korea. However, if Korean players fail to prove their worth in international games such as the 2003 China Women's Worldcup, the support and interest they have won may dwindle.
The time has come for the first generation of women soccer players who started out in the 90s to back the sports as leaders and administrators. An urgent task is to create more professional teams (currently standing at three nationwide) in order to accommodate the graduates from the 18 high school teams and 8 college teams in existence today.
Women soccer has definitely come a long way in the last decade, and more and more women students are interested in the game. But it is still not easy for them to come into contact with the sport and learn to play. The success of the US, the world's women soccer powerhouse, makes it clear that concentrating all the available resources on grooming a small elite team is far from the best way. Instead of setting its sights on short-term goals and expecting quick results, the KWSA is well-advised to cultivate the ground for women soccer to take root in Korean society. That should be the first and foremost challenge of the soon-to-be-launched KWSA.