Although they are non-mainstream, they are happy soccer dreamers with dreams.

At 11 a.m. on September 8, at Hyochang Stadium in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. Even in the midst of the late heat, the faces of the soccer players training were full of energy. The players, all darkly tanned, ran around the field wiping away their sweat. One player kicked the ball in the air as if he was disappointed when the ball missed the goal post. With encouragement from those around him, he ran toward the ball again. This is a regular training session for TNT FC, a member of the 5th division of domestic soccer league (K5 League).

TNT FC started as a local club in Gangnam-gu, Seoul in April 2000. Since 2014, about 180 players have made their debut as pros and semi-pros at home and abroad, and are making a name for themselves in the domestic amateur league as a ‘revival specialist club’. The players’ stories are different, but they sweat here every day with one dream: to make their professional debut.

The revitalization of the lower league opens the way to the upper level.

The domestic lower league has a short history. Before the division system where the leagues were divided into subdivisions was established, the lower leagues were nothing more than daily sports. TNT FC also began to feel relieved as the K5, 6, and 7 leagues were created and players from the lower leagues were able to advance to the upper leagues. TNT FC CEO Kim Tae-ryung recalls that the five years since 2014 were a ‘war against money.’ He said, “I covered the annual club maintenance cost of about 30 million won with my own money. One day, I went home and my wife was crying while looking at the bank account. From then on, I started paying attention to finances, including working hard to get sponsorship.”카지노사이트

Afterwards, the financial situation of the team, which did not even have decent uniforms, gradually improved. It was a club that only trained twice a week, but as word spread, players began to gather one by one. CEO Kim explained, “The number of players coming to the club with dreams of becoming a professional has increased significantly,” and “After going through various trials and errors to establish the quantity and quality of training and the club’s system, the current system was created.”

Now, players gather from all over the country to participate in the ‘loser revival match’. This is to achieve the goal of ‘advancing to the upper league’. Choi Hyun (20), who played on the soccer teams of elementary, middle, and high schools in the Gyeongbuk region, chose to join TNT FC instead of going to college after graduating from high school. The idea was that competing on the adult stage as soon as possible would help with growth.

As college soccer is shrinking, the number of players like Choi is increasing. Currently, approximately 80% of TNT FC players are under the age of 22. CEO Kim said, “In the past, if you couldn’t make your professional debut after taking the elite course of elementary, middle, and high school, it was the right way to go to college.” “Even universities come to see us,” he said. At the same time, he was confident, “The case of Jamie Vardy, a British soccer player who rose from the 8th division to the national team, will not be a distant story.”

Representative Kim said that the age range of players is now significantly lower than 4-5 years ago. In the past, there were many players who were active as professional players but were sent down to the lower leagues due to their contracts being terminated or injuries. The age group had to be that high. The situation changed as the lower leagues became active. This is because a path has been opened for TNT FC to advance to higher leagues by maintaining their existing skills or improving their skills.

According to CEO Kim, less than 1% of those who started playing soccer in childhood make their professional debut. Even if you enter the professional ranks with difficulty, it is even more difficult to secure a starting position. This is why a system for the remaining 99% is important. Mr. Choi also evaluated himself as an ‘ordinary but sincere player.’ However, there was clearly a wall that he could not overcome with sincerity alone.

Mr. Choi confessed, “It was very difficult whenever I felt like I was related to school, regionalism, or peerage,” and “When I saw that a fair competitive structure was not being established, I wanted to give up.” But now that he has joined TNT FC, Choi says he is enjoying the new challenge. He said, “I want to show that it’s possible to work hard,” and “I think what I’m working on right now will be of great help not only in soccer but also in other areas of life.”

Of course, there are difficulties unique to TNT FC players. This is because, unlike professional players, they have no income and cannot make a living solely from soccer. Mr. Choi, who had been living in a gosiwon but recently moved to the club’s dormitory, said, “Right now, my parents are supporting the cost of lodging, but if his professional debut is delayed any further, I think I will have to work part-time.” Shin Ho-yeon (23), who is the team’s vice-captain, also said, “Some players are complaining of difficulties because the team does not have 300,000 won in monthly membership fees. There are times when I get impatient because I have no income.”

“It will be a boost to the non-mainstream Korean soccer community.”

CEO Kim expects that some of the financial difficulties experienced by his players will be resolved in the future. He explained, “Currently, TNT FC is preparing for promotion to the K4 League, where allowances can be paid. If promotion is successful, an environment will be created where players who are experiencing financial difficulties can run toward their dreams again.”

The goal of TNT FC, as chosen by CEO Kim, is consistency. The consistency that has been maintained since the league did not exist has made TNT FC what it is today. As a result, TNT FC has become a role model for the current lower league. Many new clubs are benchmarking themselves against TNT FC. Naturally, the overall level of the league is also increasing. He emphasized, “We are a fringe group, but we have a dream,” and added, “I want to give strength to the non-mainstream players in the Korean soccer world like us through consistent efforts toward that dream.”

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