Pohang Steelers head coach Kim Ki-dong reiterated that the foundation of his first championship was his unlimited trust in his players.
Pohang won the 2023 Hana OneQ Korea Football Association FA Cup final against Jeonbuk Hyundai 4-2 at the Pohang Steelyard on Thursday to claim their fifth title and first in 10 years.
The win was significant not only for the club, but also for coach Kim Ki-dong.
Kim Ki-dong has been in charge of Pohang since 2019 and has been praised for exceeding expectations every season.
But he hadn’t won a title.
In 2021, Pohang reached the final of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL), but finished as runners-up after losing 0-2 to Al-Hilal (Saudi Arabia).
Speaking at the post-match press conference, Kim Ki-dong said: “I came to this point after thinking about how to make the players enjoy playing football. The people around me were saying, ‘That’s not enough, we need to win to take the next step,’ but I was greedy, but it wasn’t enough,” he reflected.
“We won the title because the players followed us well. I think the priority is to try to make good football with the players.”
Kim Ki-dong continued to show his trust in his players in the lead-up to the final.
He even gave them “instructions” to create a certain final score.
In 2013, the last time Pohang won the FA Cup, they won the semi-final 4-2 and the final on penalties, and this year, they won the semi-final against Jeju on penalties, so he jokingly told them to beat Jeonbuk 4-2 in the final.
“I wasn’t happy with the performance today, but I praise the team for their cohesion,” said Kim Ki-dong, adding, “I didn’t expect them to keep their promise (of a 4-2 win) so well.”
“I told them to believe in me unconditionally because I think we’re going to win, because I believed in them and they believed in me. I think I played the game calmly,” he added.
The squad could have been rattled by the “substitution incident” that occurred in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Jeonbuk in K League 1. Jeonbuk has asked the Korean Football Association to forfeit Pohang’s 0-3 loss.
“I only said that we need to focus on the game to get the result we aimed for (a win),” said coach Kim Ki-dong, emphasising that the incident was not mentioned in front of the players.
“There are overseas cases and domestic cases, so I was thinking it would work out,” he said.
With the win, Pohang also secured a spot in the 2024-2025 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League Elite (ACLE).
South Korea has a total of three ACLE spots, but there are calls for all three spots to be allocated based on K League 1 results, rather than giving the FA Cup winner a spot, so there is a possibility that the way the spots are allocated will be different from the 2025-2026 season.
In response, Kim said, “The FA Cup is a prestigious competition that encompasses both amateurs and professionals. There is room to grow the competition. “I think it’s right that the team that wins it should go to the ACLE,” he said, adding that the prize money could be increased. 먹튀검증