Gwangju is currently running third in the K League 1 (57 points, 16 wins, 9 draws and 10 losses). After being automatically promoted to early K League 2 (second division) last season, it has become a sensation in K League 1 this season. Through Lee Jung-hyo’s offensive soccer, the “incarnate of competition,” he is proudly in third place, beating teams that spend two to three times more than Gwangju.
There are three games left this season. With the ACL elite and ACL2 quota allocation to be implemented from the 2024-2025 season yet to be decided, Gwangju can win a ticket to ACL for the first time in the team’s foundation even if it achieves fourth place. Pohang, currently in second place, can secure at least fourth place if it wins the FA Cup and wins five points in the remaining three games. It’s highly likely.
There is a reason why Gwangju should advance to the ACL. It is aimed at improving the soccer environment. This year, the Gwangju club reorganized for the first time in 13 years. Administrative changes have been attempted, but the infrastructure is still poor. The training environment should wear new clothes first. The Gwangju team used the Gwangju World Cup Stadium as its home stadium from its inception to 2019 and trained at a nearby auxiliary stadium. Since then, as the auxiliary stadium has been changed to a soccer stadium, the training site has been changed to Gwangju Football Center and Mokpo Football Stadium. However, the Gwangju Football Center, which consists of one side of natural turf and one side of artificial turf, is not properly drained, leading to situations where players cannot train properly. In addition, the existing Gwangju World Cup Stadium is scheduled for track construction from next month to May next year, so training is not possible.
Gwangju supporters are working hard to improve the training environment compared to the best performance ever. The Gwangju club’s cheering group “Bitgoeul” is conducting a signature campaign to “build an exclusive training site.”
Incheon United, another civic club, is a good example of improving infrastructure through performance. When Incheon entered the ACL for the first time in its foundation, Incheon City actively stepped up. It provided funds to recruit players who will work well on the Asian stage. It was also the club’s first-ever advance to the ACL, but the city’s support was desperate not to be embarrassed on the international stage.
Gwangju needs justification to draw more support from the city like Incheon. It’s only a ticket to ACL. In other words, it is the last motivation of “Director Lee Jung-hyo and the Children.”