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Hat trick 'Gapyeong 9-year-old soccer girl's dream

At noon on the 7th, the 2023 i-LEAGUE Football Festival held at Yongsan Children's Garden in Seoul, and the 4-4 and 10-minute match between Nowon United and Gapyeong Youth was hot. The bright movement of the red uniform girl with her hair tied up in the gap basket of the boys was definitely noticeable. The net shook as soon as Gapyeong youth coach Cho In-hwan shouted "Yewon!" as he hit the back space and fell into the back space. Ye-won's hat-trick, which had been shaking the ground, ended with a 3-3 draw. Yewon Lee, a third grader at Uigok Branch School in Gapyeong Miwon Elementary School, first entered soccer last year in the "Women's Student Soccer Class" run by the Korea Sports Council. "It's so much fun to run and pass. "I feel great if I score a goal," he said with a big smile. His skills improved in a year by kicking a ball with his sixth-grade brothers at a small school with 21 students, and he even dreamed of becoming a player by participating in the i-League as a member of Gapyeong Youth Club. We saw a "virtuous cycle" model in which elite players are produced in the club system that the i-League wants, and the buds of hope.

The i-League is a club league for young people and young people that the Korea Sports Association has operated since 2013 to revitalize youth soccer and expand its base with each sports association. Even if you are not a player, all preschoolers and teenagers can participate. The i-League, which has expanded to seven sports in 2022, including baseball softball, basketball, table tennis, badminton, tennis and billiards, and the soccer league operated by the Korea Football Association (KFA), which has 35,000 people participating, is the way to start and go. This year, which started in 2013 and celebrated its 10th anniversary, from April to November, 42 regions across the country, 1,200 clubs and 14,000 young people participated. In this tournament, 600 players from under 10 (U-10), under 12 (U-12), under 15 (U-15) and 80 teams competed against each other for a 15m × 20m air pitch stadium and small goalposts.

Yewon said, "If you come to the i-League, you can face so many teams. There are many difficult teams. I can learn good things by watching players on that team," he said. Along with her dream of becoming a "women's national soccer team," Ye-won shouted the names of "Ji So-yeon, Son Heung-min" without hesitation as her favorite players. "Football is a cooperative game. I want to be a good offensive player and a soccer player who is considerate of the other team."

Kim Soon-min, a mother who watched her daughter's hat-trick, which beat rough boys without hesitation and shook the net, said, "I was worried because I didn't eat much, but it's best that I didn't eat anything and became strong after starting soccer in the second grade. "I'm an only child, and I get along with my sister and brother, and I have friendship, and I like that I get cooperation and consideration when I play games often, and I get brighter," he said with a smile.

Manager Cho In-hwan, who coaches Ye-won, has been attending the i-League for nine years since 2014. Coach Cho, who is also the teacher of the women's national soccer team, Lee Geum-min, said, "The i-League is a league that makes children imagine and dream, regardless of the game." Coach Cho, who was constantly shouting "Good job!" "It's okay!" and "Help!" at the children, said, "Other competitions are clearly won or lost, but the i-League Football Festival is really good for children of this age. It is a league where children can also learn and enjoy and grow," he explained. "In particular, small-size games of 4 to 4 help improve children's skills because they have to do everything because they have a lot of chances to touch balls and are quick to switch attacks and defenses," he said. "At first, there were three to four clubs in Gapyeong, but now there are 20 clubs participating," he said. "In fact, there are so many competitions for children. However, the i-League has no participation fee for its pure purpose, has a lot to enjoy, and the best advantage is that it is a competition where leaders and children can develop their skills without any burden."

The i-League Football Festival site was full of various things to enjoy, including time attack challenge, extreme zone (air bounce), soccer skill zone (soccer Alkkagi, dart soccer, canon shot, etc.), and cultural experience zone (ESG experience, tattoo sticker). During the Hangeul Day holiday, the entire family enjoyed the festival, including "Soker Mom," "Soker Daddy." Little soccer players constantly visited the Time Attack Challenge booth, which measures a total of five soccer skills, including shooting, dribbling, and lifting, and presents photo cards containing their photos and records after measuring the final time. Ye-won, who changed the national team uniform and soccer shoes at a booth made with hard work like the national team locker room, also challenged the time attack challenge. He accepted a photo card with the issue record of "1:43:27."

It was not just a children's festival. The entire family enjoyed the Yongsan Bee Festival during the Hangul Day holiday, Soccer Mom, Soccer Daddy, and Hangul Day. Kim Yong-gap (33) and Park Ga-young (32) all participated with their younger brothers Min-joon (10), Min-chan (4) and Min-gun (3) to cheer for their eldest son Min-joon (10, Eunpyeong Children's Futsal Class). The whole family enjoyed a happy shooting game wearing Lee Kang-in's Paris Saint-Germain uniform. Park Ga-young, her mother, said, "There are many competitions that end after only playing soccer, but the whole family played without worrying about the anxiety between floors. I've been playing shooting games with my dad and mom, putting on tattoo stickers, and doing sock crafts for more than an hour," he said with a big smile. Kim Yong-gap, a father, said, "It was good because there were many programs for adults and families to enjoy together as well as children." I am grateful that the Korea Football Association and the Korea Sports Council created such an event," he said.

Min Sung-sik, head of the youth sports department at the Korea Sports Association, said, "The i-League is a league that supports young people to enjoy sports through sports clubs and sports leagues," adding, "Starting with soccer in 2013, it has increased to seven sports in 2022, including soccer, baseball, basketball, table tennis, tennis, badminton, and billiards, and 35,000 young people are currently participating in the league. "We are creating a sports culture that everyone enjoys by participating not only in games but also in various cultural events with family and friends. The youth-based i-League serves as a bridge between daily sports and professional sports. The Korea Sports Council will continue to expand the i-League qualitatively and quantitatively and do its best to establish an advanced country-type club system, he vowed. "I am grateful that the Korea Football Association, which started the i-League first, has been running an exemplary league for 10 years," he said.

Ji Yoon-mi, head of the Korea Football Association's Women's Soccer & Byeon Expansion Team, who is in charge of the i-League, said, "The i-League of soccer, which started with 500 clubs in 17 regions in 2013, has expanded to a league involving 14,000 people in 42 regions this year, which marks its 10th anniversary." "KFA will continue to actively support young people and children to enjoy soccer itself, relieve academic stress, and grow healthy both body and mind through participation in the i-League," he promised.

A total of 515 female students participated in this year's i-League. The i-League, where children from more than 1,200 soccer clubs participate, can be a solution not only for men's soccer but also for expanding the base of women's soccer. The beginning of all talent is youth and youth. In its 10th year, the i-League is a grassroots hope. Ye-won, who discovered her talent through the i-League after encountering soccer in a girls' soccer class run by the Korea Sports Council, is a good example. Ji Yoon-mi, head of the KFA Women's Soccer-Bottom Expansion Team, said, "It is a long-term policy direction that the boundaries between professional players and hobbyists should be eliminated at the elementary level under the age of 12." Min Sung-sik, head of the youth sports department at the Korea Sports Association, also responded, "We will also think more about how to link and develop the female soccer class and the i-League in the future and how to develop an independent program."
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Friday, November 17, 2023

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