The Generational Evolution of Korean Footballers in Europe

South Korean Footballers

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"Do many players actually do their military service, in countries that have conscription, of course?" wonders Alex Kakafikas.

While the lack of conscription in Britain these days has saved the likes of Craig Bellamy and Joey Barton from some timely national service, many of the biggest names on the continent haven't been as lucky.

Take those in Serie A, for instance, as our intrepid correspondent James Richardson kindly explains. "Italian stars of a suitable age were indeed part of the 'leva', or conscription, " says James. "I myself recall visiting the special Napoli barracks set up to house them and other athletes, and meeting Fabio Galante, Alex Del Piero, Fabio Cannavaro and Marco Delvecchio. I say 'house' but they actually spent comparatively little time there, club commitments calling them away for the majority of the week.

"As I understand it, conscription has now been phased out in Italy, but back in those days the Italian army even had its own football team, who never really won anything - in keeping with local military traditions, one might say. They did stop short of changing sides at half-time, mind."

South Korean footballers are also subject to 26 months of military service along with all able-bodied men under the age of 30. However, after their run to the World Cup semi-finals in 2002, the squad saw their conscription time slashed to just one month. Wolves midfielder Seol Ki-hyeon was among them, but he could have avoided this completely with the help of a tattoo parlour; South Korea's law rules that men with body art are unfit for the military because they cause "abomination among fellow soldiers".