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The Man Beijing Guoan Should Thank the Most

Lee Jang-Soo, Beijing Guoan's former head coach

Lee Jang-Soo, Beijing Guoan’s former head coach

Beijing Guo’an FC (北京国安) ends their 16-year title wait today by winning 4-0 against Hangzhou Greentown (杭州绿城) in Chinese Super League. October 30th is no doubt the biggest day in the capital club’s history, but one man’s name becomes a taboo in their post-match celebration: Lee Jang-Soo (李章洙), the club’s former South Korean head coach.

From a fan’s view, Mr.Lee simply transformed the way Guo’an played since he took the hot seat by the end of 2006.  The players, albeit some of them considered young in Chinese football, looked more confident than ever on the pitch under Lee’s coaching, especially in their away games. The South Korean toughened up the team with new blood like Huang Bowen, Yang Hao, Zhang Xinxin and Zhu Yifan, just to name a few. Huang, Yang and Zhang all capped for Chinese national team since this year.

Mr.Lee was sacked by the club earlier on September 16th, after a 0-2 defeat to Changchun Yatai, though Guoan sitting still in the 2nd place in the league.

“We don’t really have any reason to fire him if the club’s sitting at the top, and he wouldn’t be convinced by our decision that way. And now we’re in the 2nd place and the club hasn’t been playing very good with stronger teams.” Luo Ning (罗宁), Beijing Guoan’s chairman of the board, told press two days after the club made the decision. Mr.Luo repeatedly talked in press whether or not to end the head coach’s contract before that.

Lee Jang-Soo first came to China in 1998 to coach Chongqing Lifan. He benched Gao Feng (高峰), a regular player in Chinese national team at the time for his addiction in alcohol. The South Korean was soon nicknamed “iron coach” by Chinese media, as he focuses very much on discipline and professionalism in team management.

In 2000, Chongqing Lifan defeated Beijing Guoan 4-2 in two-round finals to win the  Chinese FA Cup, the club’s first and only trophy until now. The Chongqing municipal government granted honorary citizenship to the head coach. Lee signed for Qingdao by the end of 2001, and help the team lift the FA cup in 2002, the only championship in the club’s history. The coach was once again given honorary citizenship and this time was by Qingdao government.

Former Guoan head coach Lee Jang-Soo (Right 1)

Former Guoan head coach Lee Jang-Soo (Right 1)

Lee Jang-Soo returned to China to coach Beijing Guoan after three years in his motherland with Chunnum Dragons and FC Seoul. Under Lee’s coaching, Beijing ranked runner-up in Chinese Super League in 2007, a result on par with the club’s best record in 1995.

Mr. Lee’s relationship with Guoan grew worse earlier this year, mainly for not using particular players favored by the management. The coach complained to the media this July for a lack of arrangement in fixtures between CSL and the Barclays Asia Trophy, part of the program of the 1st Beijing International Football Festival that supported by Beijing Sports Bureau under the municipal government.

Back to CSL, Shandong Luneng lost 0-1 to Chengdu in Jinan, but enough to seal a berth in next year’s Asian Champions League by beating Shanghai Shenhua in goal difference. Shanghai beat Changsha Ginde 2-1. Title competitors Henan Construction and Changchun Yatai also booked their places.

Hangzhou Greentown and Chongqing Lifan relegated to Jia League. Liaoning returned to CSL together with the People’s Liberation Army team that based in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province.

Links and Sources:

  • Goal: Beijing Guoan Win First Super League Title In Style
  • ESPN Soccernet: Beijing Guoan win Chinese Super League for 1st time
  • Jinghua Times via NetEase: Guoan wanted to sack Lee long ago, but not enough excuse (Chinese)
  • Beijing Youth Daily via Xinhua:  Lee: Somebody doesn’t understand football (Chinese)

Photo: Xinhua

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. b. cheng #

    You’re totally right, firing Lee was a joke. I do like the “team spirit” things that Hong has done, but he hasn’t impressed me as a manager and the fact there was no bump when the side switched managers (in fact it looked even more wayward), shows how much the players believed in Lee.

    You can’t really credit Lee for Huang or Zhang (especially Huang), but he definitely gave Yang a shot and helped him become the MNT fixture that he now is.

    November 1, 2009
  2. David #

    Agree.

    He hasn’t impressed me either, but doesn’t have to as long as he got Mr.Luo on his side. He could have been a scapegoat though.

    It’s just sad there’s only one player muttered “coach Lee” after winning this title and three years of working together. And it tells you so much about Chinese football.

    November 1, 2009

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