While reflecting on South Korea’s disappointing Women’s World Cup defeat by Colombia, manager Colin Bell wryly remarked: “At least we made one bit of history today.”
He was speaking about Casey Phair, who became the youngest player at a World Cup, male or female.
Aged 16 years 26 days, the forward was introduced in the 77th minute from the substitutes’ bench in South Korea’s 2-0 loss to Colombia at Sydney Football Stadium.
She beat the youngest player record held by Nigeria’s Ifeanyi Chiejine, who was 16 years 34 days when she played at the 1999 World Cup.
The men’s record at a World Cup is held by Northern Ireland striker Norman Whiteside, who was 17 years 40 days old when he played against Yugoslavia in 1982.
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Having earned two caps for the country’s Under-17s – in which she scored five goals – Phair was called up for the World Cup. English manager Bell was keen to blood Phair as a sign of the future for South Korean football – and a warning to his players in the present.
“She’s been great in camp,” Bell said after the game. “It is difficult for a player to come on at any age at 2-0 down to make an impact.
“But I wanted to throw her in to give her that experience, and as a signal to everyone in our squad that these kind of players are the future.”
There has been extensive hype around Phair in the build-up to this match, which came five days into the tournament.
Phair is so young that she is not attached to any club. Instead, she plays academy football in the United States, where she lives with her American father and South Korean mother.
This represents another history-making facet to Phair’s 15-minute cameo in Sydney. She is also the first mixed-race player to represent South Korea.
Written by: Debby Eselebor
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