SEOUL, June 9 (Yonhap) — Former South Korean men’s national football head coach Guus Hiddink has sent his condolences to the family of the late football star Yoo Sang-chul, calling the ex-midfielder he coached at the 2002 FIFA World Cup “a true hero.”
Ham Sang-heon, secretary-general of the Guus Hiddink Foundation, said Wednesday the Dutchman emailed his tribute message to the nonprofit organization, which was then printed on a card and delivered to Yoo’s family Tuesday.
Yoo passed away Monday at age 49 after battling pancreatic cancer for about a year and a half.
Yoo starred for Hiddink’s upstart South Korean team at the 2002 World Cup. The midfielder scored the team’s second goal in a 2-0 victory over Poland in Group D — South Korea’s very first World Cup win — and was named to the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team after the end of the competition. Yoo played in every match, from the group stage and all the way to the third-place contest against Turkey.
Ham said Hiddink was “devastated” to hear the news of Yoo’s passing. In the letter presented to Yoo’s surviving family, Hiddink wrote, “Nothing can be compared with your loss today.”
“You were for me and for the team a big inspiration in the time I had the privilege to work with such tremendous character,” Hiddink wrote. “You were a true hero to me and to your nation Korea. Now you leave us but the memories we shared together, your smile and joy will live among us.”