South Korea’s military soccer club Sangmu Phoenix has been booted out of the professional K-League’s first division for failing to meet international standards.
League officials decided the team, made up of conscripted players, would be forcefully relegated to the second flight next year, local media reported.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) had told K-League officials the team did not meet its criteria for club licensing regulations.
AFC rules stipulate players must have a written contract with their clubs, but Sangmu players technically belong to their original K-League teams.
Phoenix officials were hopping mad at the decision, with general manager Lee Jae-cheol describing it as a “preposterous” move.
“Our players have lost their motivation,” he told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. “If we’d been given until the end of this year, we’d have tried to meet the criteria. They didn’t give us enough time to work things out.”
After 30 matches, Sangmu occupy 15th spot out of the 16 teams.
Healthy South Korean men between 18 and 35 must serve in the armed forces for about two years, though athletes who win an Olympic medal or an Asian Games gold medal are granted military exemption.
Others often end up with Sangmu, the Armed Forces Athletic Corps.
The K-League has said Sangmu will remain in the second tier until it can satisfy the licensing regulations.
The team with the worst record in the first division would join Sangmu in the second tier next season as the K-League introduces a relegation format for the first time since the league was launched in 1983.