If the life span of a professional soccer player is measured in 15 years, the career of twenty-six-year-old Baek Seung-ho (Jeonbuk) is at a turning point. It’s been seven years and eight months since the former FC Barcelona youth player made his professional debut for Barcelona’s B team in February 2016.
Winning a gold medal at the Hangzhou Asian Games as captain of the Korean national team was a symbolic moment that marked the end of the “first half” of his career. He was scheduled to enlist in the Korean Armed Forces Athletic Corps at the end of the year, but his Asian Games victory gave him the wings of a special exemption from military service, and he went straight into the second half without a halftime.
Baek Seung-ho’s ‘first half’ was a series of trials, pain, and challenges. Seung-ho Baek, a soccer prodigy who was expected to be responsible for the future of Korean soccer, joined Barcelona’s youth team at the age of 13 and was expected to walk on solid ground. However, in 2013, he was handed a three-year ban from official competition by FIFA. He was suspended for three years by FIFA for violating a rule that requires foreign players under the age of 18 to live locally with their parents.
The suspension was followed by the simultaneous departure of the youth team director and other officials who were close to Baek, and a power struggle ensued between the Juvenil A and Barcelona B teams over Baek. Although Luis Enrique (now at Paris Saint-Germain), the first team coach at the time, thought highly of Baek Seung-ho’s potential and often called him to first team training, Baek Seung-ho was unable to settle on a team. He has been suspended for three years, but he hasn’t appeared in an official match for much longer than that.
Baek Seung-ho, who dreamed of making his debut for Barcelona’s first team, parted ways with the Catalan club in 2019, nearly a decade after joining the youth team. After making his debut in the Spanish Primera Liga and Copa del Rey with Girona, Baek moved to Darmstadt in the summer of 2019 with big dreams. He was quickly establishing himself as a first-team midfielder when COVID-19 hit the world. Seung-ho Baek’s position was immediately disrupted.
After struggling under then-Darmstadt coach Marcus Enfant, Baek was approached by Jeonbuk’s technical director Park Ji-sung in early 2021 to join the K League. In the process of joining Jeonbuk, he had to face harsh criticism from his hometown team, Suwon Samsung, for violating an agreement. Nothing was easy. After a series of twists and turns, Baek established himself as a key midfielder for Jeonbuk over the past three years, and his performances at the club level earned him a spot at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where he scored South Korea’s only goal in the round of 16 against Brazil.안전놀이터
After repeatedly failing to make the final roster for major tournaments, including the 2018 Jakarta and Palembang Asian Games, Baek Seung-ho could no longer put off enlisting, so he applied to the Armed Forces Athletic Department and was accepted in June. On December 4, Baek received his enlistment date and was given one last chance. Hwang Sun-hong, head coach of the Asian Games team, decided to use one of his three wild cards on Baek Seung-ho. Hwang recognized Seung-ho’s leadership and skill and gave him the captain’s armband. Starting with a free-kick goal in the first game, Baek Seung-ho anchored Hwang’s midfield. Although he was criticized for making mistakes in three consecutive games during the tournament, he led his team to victory in the final against Japan.
Baek Seung-ho cried in coach Huang’s arms after the victory. Baek Seung-ho had a difficult time preparing for and competing in the tournament. It felt like a reward for all the hardships he went through at a young age, and he doesn’t plan to stop there. With his contract with Jeonbuk coming to an end this year, he is reportedly considering an extension and a return to Europe. With a special waiver for military service, he is leaning toward a return to Europe. Darmstadt officials have consistently shown interest in the player, including congratulating him on his gold medal. Mainz (Germany), where Lee Jae-sung plays, is also reportedly interested in signing Baek Seung-ho.