Friday, February 13, 2009

Ryang Yong Gi is a 27-Year-Old North Korean Soccer Player

Ryang Yong Gi is a 27-year-old North Korean, one of the hundreds of thousands of Koreans who have grown up in Japan as permanent residents here. Ryang is also a very good soccer player. In fact, Ryang is so good that he has earned five caps with his North Korean national team, scoring four goals. For the last four years, he has also been one of the starting forwardmidfielders for the Vegaluta Sendai, a second-division J-League team that has barely missed out on returning to the top Japanese division those same four years. His mostly Japanese teammates have just reelected him as team captain for the second straight year.

He is of course only part of the picture that is Japan, which is of course not always a pretty one. But I thought his story should be told too.


Dice said...

Actually Ryan Yong Gi is a starting midfielder for Vegalta Sendai, and yes he is a good soccer player. He wears #10 for the team, a number with some significance in Japanese soccer.

Jun Okumura said...

Thanks, Dice. Remind me to always fact-check. Incidentally, I wrote about the distinctive soccer culture a couple of years ago on this blog. I’m sure I’ve contrasted it with the more closed-minded baseball elsewhere, but I haven’t been able to locate it.

Finally, I believe that the number 10 had traditionally been given to the best attacking player worldwide before the football authorities decided to switch to fixed numbers like most other team sports.

Dice said...

Thanks for the reply. You're quite right about #10 often being given to the best attacking player worldwide historically. While some countries might have drifted for the reverence for the #10 in soccer, many Japanese sides still hand out the #10 to their most creative player.

I've blogged a bit about the NPB. While, the J-League is far from perfect (I'd like to see them allow more player movement for instance), I do like how they aren't afraid to accept change to improve (after the Yokohama Flugels collapsed, the J-League instituted a rule compelling all teams to make their financials public).

Jun Okumura said...

Dice: I’m the one who has to thank you; it's the comments from readers that keep this blog going. I mean, why bother if nobody cares to respond?

You make an interesting point on your blog, but the history and structure of the NPB is such that that kind of turn of events is unlikely. And while we’re on this subject, I think that it’s a crying shame that the Lee brothers with their combined twenty-one years in exemplary Japanese baseball service have not been considered for election to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.

Dice said...

This was the first time I've commented, but I have enjoyed reading your blog for a while now.

Unfortunately, the NPB might have to lose a lot more credibility, talent and fans before they decide to institute some real change; I'm not holding my breath, but it could happen (change).

Jun Okumura said...

Thank you, Dice, for your kind words. Rest assured, you’re giving me far more satisfaction with your comments than you’ll ever get from my post. I want to be sure that when trees fall in my forest, there are people to hear them. But comments take the satisfaction of blogging to another dimension. That is why I make sure to respond to every non-spam comment, friendly or not, on my blog. I fear that you are right regarding the future of NPB. It has a host of legacy and history issues that make it difficult to do the right thing. Most importantly, the Yomiuri media-entertainment group uses the Giants to wag the dog, subordinating the interests of the latter and the rest of the baseball realm to its commercial interests. It’s not quite Colonel Qaddafi owning a team in Libya’s top division, but it certainly doesn’t help maximize the economic and social potentials of Japanese baseball.