Hot Exclusive: “What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.”

The Asian Cup semi-finals were underway at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.

Lee Kang-in, Seol Young-woo, and Jung Woo-young were seated on the ground.

The three national representatives were very serious, tossing water bottles (upwards). Lee Kang-in failed, Seol Young-woo failed, Jung Woo-young failed.

They tossed the water bottles again. Lee Kang-in failed, Seol Young-woo succeeded. Seol Young-woo celebrated by raising the bottle triumphantly.

Lee Kang-in tried again and succeeded. Jung Woo-young failed until the end. Lee Kang-in and Seol Young-woo patted Jung Woo-young on the back.

A fan posted on social media.

“What are the players doing? Are they not nervous? Seems like I’m the only one feeling the tension.”

Of course, each player has their way of relieving tension. If tossing water bottles helps alleviate tension, then it’s okay.

However, if it’s Lee Kang-in, Seol Young-woo, and Jung Woo-young, the story changes. What they need is to tighten the reins on the tension. After all, these three were at the center of the table tennis controversy the day before.

Based on testimonies from multiple officials present at the scene during the Qatar Asian Cup, ‘Dispatch’ summarized the incident.

Even Meals Are Unplanned

Jurgen Klinsmann’s philosophy on ‘meals’.

“Whether you shower first or eat first, eat or shower first, do it yourself!” (Klinsmann)

The national team’s dinner time is two hours. Coach Klinsmann left dinner up to individual choice. Whether you shower first and then eat, or eat first and then shower, it’s up to you.

The national team’s dinner is not just about filling their stomachs. It’s a time to discuss the game and strengthen camaraderie. Especially, dinner on the eve of a game is even more important.

On February 6th, they conducted a full practice to prepare for the Jordan game. Even then, things didn’t go smoothly. Testimonies indicate that the atmosphere was heavy as the performance wasn’t improving.

And dinner time came. Players finished showering and gradually gathered at the restaurant. The coaching staff also came around the same time. However, Lee Kang-in and others were nowhere to be seen.


At that moment, Lee Kang-in, Seol Young-woo, Jung Woo-young, and others were playing table tennis in the ‘playroom’. The playroom is a recreational space adjacent to the dormitory restaurant. It has table tennis tables and more.

While players and coaching staff were having dinner, shouts echoed in the playroom. Sounds of “wow”, “oh”, “ah” reverberated. They swung table tennis paddles, sweating profusely, for a long time.

An experienced player couldn’t bear it and called them out. (Another younger player brought him.) Son Heung-min stepped forward. It’s known that he scolded them, “Did you come here for a training camp? Focus on the game.”

Then, Lee Kang-in expressed his dissatisfaction. He retorted, “What’s wrong with playing table tennis in the evening?” Of course, table tennis wasn’t the problem. It was the timing and place.

Neck Grip and Fist

Son Heung-min grabbed Lee Kang-in’s collar. Lee Kang-in retaliated. He swung a fist towards Son Heung-min. Son Heung-min had no chance to dodge. He took the hit directly to his face.

The restaurant turned into chaos. Players got involved, security intervened. In the process, Son Heung-min’s finger got caught in Lee Kang-in’s clothes and was bent into a ‘ㄱ’ shape. That’s when the dislocation happened.

Son Heung-min calmed down the anger and approached Lee Kang-in (first). He reached out his hand, saying, “Let’s focus on tomorrow’s game.” Lee Kang-in also apologized, saying, “I’m sorry,” it’s reported.

Is that the end of it? Senior players couldn’t tolerate Lee Kang-in’s actions. And understandably so, the players were tired of Lee Kang-in’s impulsive behavior.

“Take Lee Kang-in Out”

Some players went to find Klinsmann. It was the day of the semi-finals. They requested, “Exclude Lee Kang-in from the starting lineup.” They judged that building teamwork was a priority.

But, Klinsmann didn’t comply this time. He ignored the team’s issues and players’ concerns. He sent Lee Kang-in out as a starter, saying, “Lee Kang-in is a player I must use.”

Klinsmann knew. On that problematic night, he posted on SNS, “It takes a team to build a dream.”

Yet, the coach ignored the crack in the team. While emphasizing the importance of teamwork, he prioritized the ‘to-be-helped’ player first. It’s more serious than tactical flaws.

“Ferguson’s Win”

Alex Ferguson said.

“What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.”

Coach Ferguson emphasized the team’s trust. Internal issues should be resolved internally. Once it leaks out, trust crumbles, he emphasized countless times.

However, the Football Association swiftly acknowledged what happened in the locker room, or rather the restaurant. They even sparked a fire, saying, “We received reports that the players had a dispute.”

Again, Coach Ferguson’s words.

“There’s no player greater than the team.”

Lee Kang-in’s future with PSG remains uncertain. But for now, he cannot be the future of Korean football. Football is not about fasting for table tennis. It’s a team sport where eleven play together.

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