Simeone’s Madrid in torrential rain…”I’ll pay it forward with fan service”

On the 26th, the last day of the summer monsoon rains, Atletico Madrid (Spain) and Team K-League met with fans for an open training session ahead of their showdown at Sangambeol. The fans braved the torrential downpour, bundled up in rain gear, and cheered at every move the stars made at Seoul World Cup Stadium.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who traveled to South Korea with his team for the first leg of the Coupang Play Series, which kicks off here on Sunday, promised unequivocal “fan service. Speaking at the pre-match press conference on the 26th, Simeone said, “The fans have welcomed us from the airport. We will give them a game that will repay them,” he said, adding, “We will give them fair and sufficient playing time so that they can see the world-class players in our team.”

Simeone is the mastermind behind the reorganization of the Primera Liga from a two-powered league dominated by Real Madrid and FC Barcelona to a three-powered league in the 2010s. He built Atletico into a global powerhouse, implementing a disciplined defensive tactic that has become a template for modern football. He brought the club to its peak, winning two league titles (2013-14, 2020-21) and two UEFA Europa League titles 메이저놀이터 (2011-12, 2017-18).

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone listens to questions from the media during the pre-match press conference for the first leg of the Coupang Play Series against Team K-League at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Saturday. Yonhap News Agency

This is the first time Atletico has come to Korea. While Simeone emphasized the importance of playing for the fans, he also expressed his desire for a pre-season team tune-up, saying, “We want to play a game that will help us in the first game of the (new) season.” When asked about individual players, he said, “No player is above the team,” and “I don’t guarantee any player a starting spot. You have to show everything on the field,” he said, reinforcing the team’s organizational strength.

“I want the players to play with the pride of representing the league,” said Hong Myung-bo (Ulsan Hyundai), head coach of Team K-League, who will also face the European giants, at a press conference on the same day. “Atletico has clear tactical colors and a world-class defensive organization. However, there is only one ‘language’ in football: the ball. We will prepare to showcase the langage of the K League team.”

The K League All-Stars are comprised of 22 players, including the top 11 voted for by fans online and 11 selected by the league’s coaches and technical committee. Daegu FC’s Sejingya, who was also selected as an All-Star in the Coupang Play Series against Tottenham Hotspur at this time last year but was unable to play due to injury, topped the fan vote. “I will return the love I received from the fans in tomorrow’s game,” said Sejingya, who attended the press conference.

Kim Young-kwon (right) of Team K League Baseball answers questions from the media during the pre-match press conference for the first leg of the Coupang Play Series against Atletico Madrid at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on June 26. (From left) Se Jing-ya and coach Hong Myung-bo. Yonhap

The press conference was followed by an hour-long open training session between Atletico and Team K-League. Fans who purchased a premium ticket for the Coupang Play Series or a separate ticket for the open training session were able to “intuit” the training sessions of Atlético players such as Antoine Griezmann, Alvaro Morata, and Koke, as well as K League All-Stars such as Lee Min-kyu (Ulsan), Lee Seung-woo (Suwon FC), and Baek Seung-ho (Jeonbuk), in the front area of the stadium under the heavy rain, and had a fun fan meeting.

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