Recently the Liberian national team suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Nigerian Super Eagles, with a 6-1 deficit in Calabar Nigeria, exposing Kaetu Smith who has described himself as a “good coach.” The Liberian national team, the Lone star, must hire a foreign coach, appoint Kaetu Smith as the under 23 care taker, and let him coach also in the domestic league.
The Liberian FA must also give the under 20 or under 18 job to Thomas Kodjo, while he also coaches in the domestic league. The Man for the Lone Star job though, is the South Korean manager, coach Huh Jung Moo.
Coach Huh Jung-Moo
By the time Coach Moo would have brought pride to the Lone Stars and before leaving his post, both Smith and Kodjo would have been ready to take on the illustrious post. The argument can be made that indigenous coaches on the continent are growing in numbers, but Liberia is not Nigeria, or Ghana, or South Africa! We have ways to go and the domestic league is nowhere near those African countries that are doing well as exampled in the listed countries above.
Thomas Kodjo though, has shown promise and must be commended for handing Namibia the defeat in Monrovia, which saw Liberia advancing to the Afcons cup preliminary rounds that squared her up against the Super Eagles and for taking the local U-23 to Nigeria last year, bringing home the bronze trophy during the ECOWAS tournament when they beat power house Ghana.
But Kodjo, say sports analysts, will have to prove himself in the domestic Liberian League to be taken seriously! The best of all the foreign coaches was perhaps Antoine Hey, the German national under whose leadership the Liberian national team played even better and looked stronger, but his wins were minuscule.
Had Hey shown patience, the Lone Star would have been a formidable team, say a football enthusiast. Hey though was undisciplined and impatient, and he and the Liberians parted ways immediately. Although the FA asked him to re-sign, he said no. The Liberian FA immediately turned to the Hungarian tactician, Bertalan Bicskei. While Bicskei was keen on building a domestic side strong enough to compete on the international scene, he succumbed to death last year when suddenly the Italian, Roberto Landi landed the post. He too was fired in February of this year. Coach Landi’s dismissal was apparently based on his poor performances in the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. The nail was finally put in the coffin when the homegrown Super Eagles of Nigeria trounced the Lone Star in a 2-0 defeat in Monrovia in the presence of the Liberian president, at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium.
Why Liberia Needs Moo
Under Moo, the Liberian national team should flourish. Liberians style and called their football tabellah, where a strong midfield is prioritized and the ball is shared. Liberians have always experimented with Brazilian football. George Weah is a product. It helps that as a player, coach Huh Jung- Moo was also a midfielder, even when Asian players were rarely plying their trade in Europe. He was one of the few playing there in the 1980s. His coaching philosophy also teaches a strong midfield, and the ball is distributed well under that value: his teams dictate the pace of play as far as ball possession is concerned. Having coached his native Korea successfully, the team reached the round of 16 for the first time away from home soil during the South Africa 2010 World Cup. Moo would bring nothing but knowledge of the game to the Lone Star.
Liberian players are diminutive in size like their Korea counterparts. Moo used that to his advantage in the 2010 world cup because what they lack in height and weight, the Koreans make up for in the fitness and intensity. With a lot of Liberian players including its best player in Francis Doe playing in the Asian league, he will have plenty of time to see them first hand in action.
Huh Jung-Moo on several occasions has been passed over for the coaching position for the Taegeuk Warriors, and when he was finally given the job, coach Moo surprised his detractors when he opted for youth because there were many within the Korean FA who wanted experienced and older players, but he said no. Similarly, Liberia needs to exploit its youthful generation which includes Patrick Wleh, Sekou Jabateh and Alex Nimley. It is encouraging that Nimley has decided to play for the Lone Stars having played on the youth level for England.
Moo, sports analysts say, would use those talents because he proved that during his last job. It is true that Liberia’s football glory has faded since the departure of George Weah and company, and that result has seen Liberian football taken a nose dive. Moo could work hard to bridge the gap. Coach Huh Jung-Moo learned under Dutch coaches, especially Guus Hiddink, who today remains a hero in Korea for his exploits while in the employs of the Korean FA.
It is no secret that South Korea thrived under Dutch coaches especially, and Guus Hiddink in particularly, but Moo did win over his cynics by leading the team through the qualifying campaign to South Africa with an unbeaten record. Reports say Moo took temporary charge of South Korea in 1995 overseeing just one game before returning to club management with Chunnam Dragons, where he remained for three years before he was offered the national team job on a full-time basis. His domestic record was spotty with his only accomplishment mainly at Chunnam, and that was evident in cup competitions.
His record on the league level was considered “consistently average,” according to football analysts, but his work ethics weren’t; gradually he was growing as a coach. After Guus Hiddink stepped down following his successful run at the 2002 World Cup held in Korean and Japan, the Korean FA appointed a string of foreign coaches, but after snubs from Gerard Houllier and Mick McCarthy, the Korean FA approached Moo, and he accepted.
The appointment was not popular with fans and the media considering his previous record, but once the job was offered, he worked hard and earned results.
South Africa 2010
The South Korea team went to South Africa optimistic about their chances and Moo was ready for the challenge, even though a lot of doubters thought his appointment was mistaken. Paired in Group B with Nigeria, Greece, and Argentina; it was probably the hardest group in the competition, and nobody gave the South Koreans a chance to qualify in the early group stages, considering that Greece was a former European champion and Nigeria an African powerhouse.
Everyone knew who the Argentinians were: they had Lionel Messi, the world’s best player, and the legendary Diego Maradona was the man in the dog house! With many predicting Nigeria and Argentina to emerge as group winners, the 59-year-old coach and his Taegeuk Warriors took on the Nigerians on June 22 in Durban with an estimated football crazy crowd of 62, 000 in attendance and the whole of Africa and Asia tuned in.
The weather was good! The Taegeuk warriors were agile and confident.They moved the ball fluently with brisk speed and frustrated the Super Eagles to a 2-2 draw. First, it was Kalu Uche of the Super Eagles who tore the net in the 12th minutes. Then, the Koreans fought back wrestling the lead away from them, but Yakubu Aiyegbeni equalized from the penalty spot in the 69th minute. “It’s the first time we are reaching the second round away from home,” Coach Huh Jung-Moo said. “That was our goal. I’m very proud of my players. I feel that my players have played to their full potential.” He broke the heart of the Africans.
The Nigerians were supposed to have been their best team, it was star studded and they had a competent coach in the Swede Lars Lagerback, who was also probably the highest paid coach in the competition when you considered the length of his contract. Moo is fluent in English.
When South Korea beat Greece 2-0 at the biggest football gala under Moo it was also a tactical genius, and a dominance of strength that was evident in the quick breaks and a neat passing play that left their “opponents outnumbered at the back,” say an analyst. Also under Moo, South Korea dominated the Asian game, a feat he also showcased in South Africa, before falling to Argentina. Even though he accomplished a lot at the world cup, he resigned after the competition as he said he would to make way for fresh ideas.
Moo is also known for grooming players and making them into stars, an accomplishment he could repeat if he lands the important Lone Star position. He picked up some unknown young players and gave them important positions instead of established stars as his critics wanted, inviting harsh condemnations in the process. After a lackluster performance in the 2000 Summer Olympics and 1998 Asian Games, the Korean FA showed him the door and hired Guus Hiddink.
Also, before him, the Korean FA experimented with: Humberto Coelho, Jo Bonfrere, Dick Advocaat and Pim Verbeek. Even though they were all of Dutch origins, they failed to impress like Hiddink, prompting Moo’s return. Coach Huh Jung – Moo eye for talent however showed result when the much criticized “nameless players” picked by him became stars. Park Ji-Sung, though demonstrated promise while Moo was still coach earlier on, he blossomed into the most recognized player in Asia in later years. Also notable were Lee Yong – Pyo and Seol Ki – Hyeon.
Besides his heroics in South Africa, he also won Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Coach of the Year Award after leading the national team, the Taegeuk Warriors to 27 consecutive games without a loss. Coach Moo is well placed to lead the Lone Star to greener pastures; he has been tested and has shown class. The Liberian FA must hire this man for the Lone Star job! He is the man for the post, the defeat in Calabar was shameful, it is time to rescue the national team under a coach who has worked with little and produce results, Moo is the man!