While the Korea Christian University men’s soccer team has traveled the United States hoping to gain victories on the soccer pitch, the spiritual battle for their souls had already been won.
“They are soccer players, but at the same time they are Christians,” Korea Christian Head Coach Koo Daeryung said. “It is important for them to be more committed to their faith, not just to soccer itself.”
On May 29, 2016 in Seoul, South Korea, 18 of the 22 members of the men’s soccer team, including the head coach, decided to put on Christ in baptism. According to Mark Hooper, the director for Asian missions with the Missions Resource Network, the team exceeded the number of baptism robes available, so the entire team was baptized in their soccer uniforms.
After the baptism in South Korea, the Korea Christian team decided to take those jerseys to several soccer pitches in the United States.
Through a partnership with the Missions Resource Network, Korea Christian arranged a soccer tour of Church of Christ schools in the United States. Through a two-week journey by charter bus, the team traveled to Faulkner University (Montgomery, AL), Lipscomb University (Nashville, TN), Freed-Hardeman University (Henderson, TN), Oklahoma Christian University, and Ft. Worth Christian High School (Texas).
At each university, they received a tour and an opportunity to scrimmage the soccer teams. Along the way, the team also enjoyed periods of sightseeing in Dallas, TX, Memphis, TN, and Nashville, TN.
After suffering a 1-5 loss to Division I Lipscomb University, the head coach confiscated the boys’ cell phones and promised to return them after a win. Spurned by motivation, Korea Christian defeated Freed-Hardeman 7-0 in the next game. Daeryung said the boys attacked the bag of phones like ‘hungry piranhas’.
Coming off the victory at Lipscomb, Daeryung said the boys were eager for another win, this time against Oklahoma Christian on March 27.
The Oklahoma Christian Eagles took a 2-0 lead in the scrimmage. Only a minute after the Eagles scored the second goal, Korea Christian connected a long ball down the field to bring the Eagles lead to one. Korea Christian then tied the game late in the second half, allowing Oklahoma Christian limited time to regain the lead. Escaping phone confiscation, Korea Christian tied Oklahoma Christian, 2-2.
“It was definitely an aggressive game,” Oklahoma Christian freshman soccer player Landon Pope said. “I was honestly a little surprised at how aggressive they were. Coming in, I figured they would play more of a finesse game.”
When comparing style of play across international boundaries, the head coach noticed some key differences in American soccer to that of Korean.
“The American players are big and strong,” Daeryung said. “Instead, we tend to focus more on techniques and skills. American players use their strength, their height and their bodies more.”
Additionally, Daeryung said he was amazed at the size and quality of the athletic facilities located here in the United States compared to Korea. Although Americans tend to overlook the wealth of opportunities student-athletes have here, Pope said it a personal privilege to play the Korea Christian team.
“It was an amazing experience,” Pope said. “I never thought I would be able to play a team from an Asian country, so to have this opportunity was unreal.”
Only in its second year as a competitive team, Daeryung said the Korea Christian soccer team looks to utilize the experience they gained in America to earn success in the 80-university division in Korea.
Statistics provided by the Oklahoma Christian University Sports Information office.