Head coach Colin Bell pulled out a card he’s been saving for a while now: the surprise introduction of Casey Fair, who at 16 years and 21 days is the youngest player to play in a World Cup and the first mixed-race soccer player from South Korea.
The 17th-ranked women’s national soccer team faced off against 25th-ranked Colombia in the first match of Group H at the FIFA World Cup Australia-New Zealand 2023 at Sydney Football Stadium in Australia at 11 a.m. KST.
Before the game, one player was making waves. It was Casey Fair, the tournament’s youngest player. Born on June 29, 2007, she earned her first World Cup call-up at the age of 16 years and 1 month. She broke the record for the youngest player to represent the United States in a women’s soccer World Cup by nearly 20 years, as Park Eun-sun was the youngest player to be selected at the 2003 Women’s World Cup in the United States at the age of 16 years and nine months. Born to an American father and Korean mother, she is the first “mixed-race” player in the history of the South Korean Women’s National Team, and is an aggressive attacker with great physicality and the ability to break through and score goals. In April, she scored five goals in three Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-17 Women’s Asian Cup qualifiers, topping the team’s goal tally. She was first called up to the final call-up training camp in June and spent over three weeks keeping pace with the seniors before earning a spot on the final roster.
“Casey Fair has good physicality. She has good footwork, finishing ability, and learning ability. She’s adjusted well and has shown through the roster that she’s earned it. We chose her because of her immediate ability to help the team. It’s not a time for experimentation. She’s done a good job of proving me right in training. She’s not a passenger at this World Cup, she’s a valuable player.”
Bell kept Casey Fair a secret. He kept her a secret until the final roster was announced. “I purposely kept her away from the media for two and a half weeks. I wanted to give her time to focus in training to show what she has. She’s a young athlete. He’s the first mixed-race athlete of either gender, so there’s a lot of media attention. As a coach, you have to protect young athletes. It’s my job to help their potential blossom.”
On the field, there was also a lot of interest in Casey Fair. At the official press conference on the 24th, the media also asked a lot of questions about Casey Fair. “She’s a player I’ve been watching for years,” Bell said. We have two more young players like her. We don’t want to put too much pressure on her because she’s young. We’re trying to protect them from too much media attention. I will answer questions about the game tomorrow.” 꽁머니
South Korea’s “secret weapon” Casey Fair started the match against Colombia off the bench. South Korea conceded a penalty in the 30th minute and another nine minutes later. Bell was forced into action. In the 33rd minute of the second half, he brought Choi Yuri off the bench and brought on Casey Fair. The 16-year-old made her debut for the A team without even making the U-20 team. It was her first game under the colors of the flag at the World Cup.
When she took the field, she was imposing. She was tall, strong, and powerful against Colombia. She wasn’t afraid to get physical. In attacking situations, she used her height to win aerial balls and create chances for her teammates. However, it wasn’t easy for her to single-handedly change the game for 20 minutes, including the second-half stoppage time. South Korea went down 0-2.
Immediately after the game against Colombia, foreign reporters swarmed Casey Fair. Paire remained calm and collected as she told her story. “I am so proud and honored to play for the Korean national team. I am so proud and honored to play for the Korean national team,” she said.
When asked if she knew what it meant to be the first mixed-race South Korean to play in a World Cup, she said, “It means a lot to me. It means a lot to me to be able to represent my mom’s country, which is my background,” she said. “My parents are happy, they’re here to support me. They’ll be here to support me against Morocco and Germany. I will do my best to be a better representative of my country in the future.”