South Korea coach Colin Bell said it was his duty to protect 16-year-old Casey Phair from the glare of publicity after including the United States-born striker in his 23-player squad for the Women’s World Cup.
Phair, who has an American father and South Korean mother, made the cut for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand when the squad was announced on Wednesday, becoming the first player of mixed heritage to be selected for a Korean World Cup squad.
“I know as the first mixed race player for Korea, men and women, it’s a highlight, it’s something new,” Bell said at a press conference in Seoul.
“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 fulfil her potential.
“We’re taking care of her, she’s taken very well to the team. She’s in the squad on merit. She deserves, on her performance, to be selected.”
Phair, who impressed at youth level for the Koreans, joins a squad led by former Chelsea midfielder Ji So-yun, with the team due to face Germany, Morocco and Colombia at the finals, which kick off on July 20.
Bell said he was not “experimenting” by picking Phair.
“Casey is going not as a passenger but as a valuable member of the squad and has every chance of getting into the team,” he added. “I also want to have that competition.”
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 Yu-jin