Reporter Seo Ho-jeong = Suwon Samsung produced a video called ‘Oh Hyun-kyu’s Day’ in May 2019 and uploaded it to the club’s YouTube account. It was a content introducing Oh Hyeon-gyu, a 3rd grader at Maetang High School who signed a semi-professional contract at the time, how he spends his daily life and prepares to become a professional player.
This video was well-received as an 스포츠토토 essential viewing material for parents raising youth players. After all, a soccer player’s dream is to become a pro, and the route with the highest probability is to enter a youth team under a pro. In Suwon, a high school student named Oh Hyun-kyu stepped on the professional stage early through the newly established system of semi-professional contracts, and told him how to balance studies and professional life.
Oh Hyun-gyu, who signed a semi-professional contract with his classmate Kim Sang-jun in the winter of the third year of high school, made his professional debut on April 26, 2019 as a substitute in the Pohang expedition. Nine days later, on Children’s Day, he started in the Super Match and drew a lot of attention. It was the first case of playing as a high school student after the Professional Football Federation introduced the semi-professional contract system in April 2018.
Now, 3 years and 9 months later, Oh Hyun-kyu has become a European fan. He wears the jersey of Celtic, one of Scotland’s two rivers. In the meantime, the 18-year-old semi-professional player took steps step by step. He joined the Armed Forces Sports Unit (Sangmu) early and completed his military service. From 2019 to 2021, he played 51 league games in 3 seasons and finished his pro adaptation period, and the physical and technical confidence he gained from managing the team exploded with the achievement of 14 goals and 3 assists (including promotion playoffs) in 38 appearances in Suwon in the 2022 season.
Prior to the World Cup, former national team coach Paulo Bento paid attention to Oh’s style and development and took him to Qatar as the 27th member on standby. Such symbolic success became another impetus for Oh Hyun-gyu to advance into Europe, and the value exploded to such an extent that a transfer fee of nearly 4 billion won was charged. The most outstanding time for Oh Hyun-gyu to go through the national team to Europe is 2022, but from a long perspective, nine years with Suwon’s youth system made a man worth about 4 billion won.
The Suwon club has continuously put effort into the youth system over the past 10 years. Suwon’s youth system, which started with an under-18 youth team agreement with Maetango in 2008, was formed by the under-15 youth team in 2009 (Maetanjung -> Hwadojung -> club team conversion), and the under-12 youth team Little in 2012. This led to the founding of Wings. Starting with Min Sang-ki, promising players such as Koo Ja-ryong and Lee Jong-seong began to emerge from Maetango, but the full-fledged golden age of Suwon Youth came after the completion of this system.
As the operating body was transferred to Cheil Worldwide in 2014, Suwon’s youth policy, which had been established even before that, became a godsend. This is because he had to discover and nurture excellent players by himself at the point where he had to say goodbye to the glory of ‘Real Suwon’, which had brought together the best players in the past.
As of the 2022 season, Suwon ranked 8th in the K-League 1 personnel cost rankings, behind Daegu, Gangwon, and Incheon. The direction of the management of the professional first team is not the same as before, but the youth policy is consistent. The evidence is the youth players placed in the first team elements, and the Europeans for two consecutive years, following Jeong Sang-bin last year and Oh Hyun-kyu this year.
‘Oh Hyeon-gyu’s day’ can now be newly defined as ‘Oh Hyeon-gyu’s 4 years’ in the management direction of the Suwon club.
I clearly felt how to bring a promising player raised through the youth system to a professional team and develop it into a large player. The main point of most policies of the K-League is fostering. Suwon is the club that makes the best use of the under-22 system that represents it, the semi-professional system. Oh Hyun-gyu is a success story that once again solidifies the trust of players and parents in Suwon’s youth system.
At the same time, Suwon must also address the concerns of the next stage. The ultimate dream of players who have been raised as youth is to settle down in the professional world and head to Eldorado, Europe. The Suwon club is keeping its cause that it will not block its advance into Europe, but there is also a reality that the team cannot hold on to super-large players in their late teens and early 20s for a long time.
If they leave, the task for the professional team will determine how to build a competitive edge that will make the success of Suwon’s consistent youth policy more brilliant. Last year, Suwon fell to the promotion playoffs and suffered the biggest crisis in the history of the club. A virtuous cycle structure must be created in which promising players leave behind a large transfer fee, use the money appropriately to strengthen the first team, and reinvest in the youth.
Suwon’s concern right now is how to efficiently and effectively use the negligence of the large transfer fee left by Oh Hyun-kyu. Although they have money, the timing to acquire excellent players in the winter transfer market is rather late. Suwon’s insight is important here. It is necessary to use money efficiently to bring certain resources, such as the frontline attack that will reveal Oh Hyun-gyu’s vacancy, and the reinforcement of the central defense, which was sluggish this winter.
The decisions and judgments made just a year ago are good teaching materials for the Suwon club themselves. Jeong Sang-bin was sent to Europe for a transfer fee of 1.6 billion won, but there was a miss in the choice to fill the void. It seemed like it was just a mistake in choosing one or two players, but that was the beginning of the relegation zone. Suwon fans congratulate Oh Hyeon-gyu on his advance to Europe while watching with anticipation and concern about how the club will use the enormous negligence left behind by the player.
If this homework is solved well and entering the 2023 season, Suwon will be able to establish itself as a new model of the K-League’s emerging colossus, which develops players well through youth and sends them to the European stage to maintain first-team competitiveness with the profits.