Dissatisfaction is still pouring in over the mandatory participation rule for under 22 years of age in the professional soccer K-League. Now, even the players are voicing criticism.
From 2021, the Professional Football Federation changed the mandatory participation rules for players under the age of 22. At the time, when the International Football Council (IFAB) decided to expand the number of replacement players from 3 to 5 due to Corona 19, the K-League tweaked the player replacement system by linking it with the compulsory participation system for players under the age of 22.
Under the rule, if two or more players under the age of 22 start or one standby player is put in as a substitute, the team is given up to five substitutes per game. On the other hand, if only one player under the age of 22 starts and there is no replacement, only up to three players can be substituted, and if there are many players under the age of 22 starting, the number of replacements per game is reduced to two.
As a result, in the K-League, a somewhat absurd scene occurred in which young players were replaced with key players within 15 minutes of starting the game. In extreme cases, he was substituted just five minutes into the game.
There are, of course, positive effects of the system. Ulsan Hyundai, Suwon Samsung, and Gangwon FC have discovered many promising players through this system. Young players such as Oh Hyeon-gyu (Celtic), Kang Seong-jin (FC Seoul), Ko Young-jun (Pohang Steelers), and Yang Hyeon-jun (Gangwon FC) quickly seized the opportunity to play. Young K-leagues joined the national team by age group and achieved good results on the international stage.
However, the dominant point is that the system does not match the situation of the K-League. K-League 1 is so competitive that up to three teams out of 12 teams can be demoted, so it is difficult to guarantee young players to play for a long time as the system aims. Most of the promising players have become so-called ‘sweetheart’ players who play for a replacement card.
Immediately after the system change, the coaches of each club raised their voices of criticism, but now, two years later, the players are also expressing their dissatisfaction with the system.
On the 11th, midfielder Lee Seung-woo of Suwon FC said in Spanish on his SNS, “I can never understand the rule that two under 22 (U-22) players must play in a game. Then, why is there no regulation for those aged 35 or over? Which country has a rule like this?”
Suwon Samsung playing coach Yeom Ki-hoon, who serves as vice president of the Professional Football Players Association, also said in an interview with a media outlet, “Many players oppose the U-22 compulsory participation regulation. It’s really hard to get the mental part of the players (under 22 years old) who come in and come out as substitutes in 15 minutes.”
He continued, “Even if I felt that I was doing well, it was really unfortunate that I was removed after 15 minutes (to put in the main player). A young player has to drop out because of the starter by the time the body is trying to come up.” 스포츠토토
Officials in the soccer world are now suggesting that a change in the U-22 system is needed.
Mr. A, who requested anonymity, said, “Now, most overseas leagues, except for Korea, use five replacement cards. On the other hand, in Korea, it is still not easy to run the game due to the mandatory participation rule for under 22 years old.” The system that tries to give young players a chance is now leading to an expedient, and I can’t understand the federation that hasn’t touched the system yet.”
Mr. B, an official from the club, also said, “There are situations where young players continue to fall out without being able to play for a long time, so morale is weakening. It seemed that there were some players who felt like ‘torture of hope’.”