The first-ever foreign-managed championship in Korea’s ‘Big Four’ championships

This season’s men’s professional volleyball championship game will feature something that has never happened before in the 42-year history of South Korea’s four major professional sports (baseball, soccer, basketball, and volleyball). Teams coached by foreigners will go head-to-head for the championship. Korean Air, led by Tomi Tilikainen (37-Finland), finished first in the regular season and headed directly to the championship. OK Financial Group, led by Masashi Ogino (54-Japan), defeated Woori Card in the playoffs to set up the first-ever foreign-manager championship matchup.

Tilikainen became the youngest coach in the history of professional volleyball, both Korean and foreign, when he was appointed to Korean Air ahead of the 2021-2022 season. He is only the second foreigner to coach a men’s professional volleyball team, following his predecessor Roberto Santilli (59-Italy). Tilikainen took over the reins of the regular season and championship champions from Santilli, 메이저 토토사이트 extending the combined record to three consecutive seasons.

If Korean Air wins the championship, it will become the first franchise to win the combined title in four consecutive seasons. This is a record that only Samsung Fire, which has won seven consecutive championships dating back to the 2007-2008 season, has ever achieved. “What we are trying to accomplish is the first record, and the secret weapon is the motivation of the players,” said Tilikainen.

Ogino, who has been leading OK Financial Group since this season, is the third foreign head coach in the men’s game, but the first Japanese coach to take the helm of a men’s team. Within two months of his arrival, Ogino led the team to the 2023 Gumi Dodram Cup professional volleyball tournament title. It was the first time OK Financial Group had won the Cup since its inception in 2013.

If OK Financial Group wins the championship, it will become only the fourth men’s team in history to win both the Cup and the V-League. Hyundai Capital in 2006-2007, Samsung Fire in 2009-2010, and Korean Air last season did the same. Coach Ogino said, “My first goal after taking over was to reach the postseason. We were able to achieve the result thanks to the hard work of the players, who played the volleyball I envisioned,” Ogino said, adding, “We will approach the championship with the mindset of playing for higher heights.” OK Financial Group is looking to win its third championship in eight years and first since the 2015-2016 season.

Game 1 of the best-of-five best-of-three championship series will be played at 7 p.m. on Nov. 29 at Gyeyang Gymnasium in Incheon, home of Korean Air. Whichever team wins, it will be the fourth consecutive season that a foreign-coached team has won the men’s title. Korean Air holds a 4-2 advantage in the regular-season head-to-head record between the two teams this season, with OK Financial Group winning the last meeting on March 10.

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