SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea has included American-born teenager Casey Phair as part of its 23-player squad for the Women’s World Cup.
The 16 year-old forward, who has a Korean mother and an American father, is the first male or female player of mixed heritage to represent the country as well as the youngest.
“I know as the first mixed race player for Korea, men and women, it’s a highlight, it’s something new,” head coach Colin Bell said at a press conference at the National Football Center in Paju.
“But as far as I’m concerned she’s still a kid and it’s my duty to protect her so she can blossom and really fulfill her potential.”
The English coach insisted that Phair, who had been training in New Jersey with the Players Development Academy, was going to Australia and New Zealand as a fully-valued member of the team.
“We’re taking care of her, she’s taken very well to the team. She’s selected because I think she can help the team now, like every other player,” Bell said. “She is going not as a passenger but as a valuable member of the squad.”
Phair said she’s looking forward to the challenge.
“I feel really proud and honored to be given this opportunity,” she told reporters. “And I’m ready and willing to do whatever it takes to help the country.”
There are more experienced players available to Bell, with goalkeeper Kim Jung-mi at 38. The team will be led by English-based stars Ji So-yun of Chelsea and Tottenham’s Cho So-hyun, who both have made 144 international appearances.
South Korea has never made it past the second round in three previous World Cup appearances and will complete preparations with a warm-up against Haiti in Seoul on Saturday.
It opens the World Cup against Colombia on July 25 in Sydney and will also face Germany and Morocco in Group H.
South Korea squad:
Goalkeepers: Ryu Ji-soo, Kim Jung-mi, Yoon Young-guel
Defenders: Shim Seo-yeon, Lee Young-ju, Lim Seon-joo, Kim Hye-ri, Jang Sel-ji, Choo Hyo-joo, Hong Hye-ji
Midfielders: Kim Yun-ji, Jeon Eun-ha, Bae Ye-bin, Cho So-hyun, Lee Geum-min, Ji So-yun, Chun Ga-ram
Forwards: Kang Chae-rim, Son Hwa-yeon, Moon Mi-ra, Park Eun-sun, Choe Yu-ri, Casey Phair
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