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Gwangju launches 16th team in K-League football
GWANGJU, Dec. 16 (Yonhap) -- Gwangju FC, the 16th club in South Korea's K-League football, got off the ground with a launching ceremony here in the southern part of the country on Thursday.

   At a ceremony attended by Gwangju Mayor Kang Wun-tae and Korea Football Association (KFA) Chairman Cho Chung-yun plus some 2,000 residents, the team's emblem was unveiled for the first time, as players vowed to play hard for their fans.

   Gwangju FC will be run on civic funds. About 20,000 people, including Celtic FC midfielder Ki Sung-yueng and LPGA Tour golfer Shin Ji-yai, raised 1.5 billion won (US$1.3 million) to cover the team's operating costs.

   There are five other K-League teams that rely on civic funding, though private companies do provide additional funding in exchange for attaching their corporate logos on players' uniforms.

  
Park Byung-mo, general manager of K-League football team Gwangju FC, waves the team flag at the launching ceremony on Dec. 16. (Yonhap)




Kang thanked Gwangju residents for their support and said he hoped the new club would put up good records and entertain the fans.

   "Gwangju is a football town where South Korea reached the semifinals (at the 2002 World Cup)," Kang said, referring to South Korea's quarterfinals victory over Spain in the city. "It's only natural that we now have a football team run by the people."

   Choi Man-hee, the first head coach of the team, said he wants to give back the love that the fans have shown.

   "We want to play a fun and winning brand of football for our fans who've built Gwangju FC," Choi said. "We're not a complete team yet, but we have passionate young players. If we just fine tune our line a little, we should be a good team."

   Gwangju FC is replacing an outgoing Gwangju club, Gwangju Sangmu FC. Sangmu is the athletic division of the South Korean military, with the lineup made up of players fulfilling their mandatory service duties. Starting in 2011, Sangmu FC will play out of Sangju, North Gyeongsang Province, in the southeast region of South Korea.

   Sangmu FC was supposed to leave Gwangju in 2008 and give way to Gwangju FC. But Gwangju FC struggled to secure sufficient funding, and the K-League granted a two-year extension to Sangmu's affiliation with Gwangju.

   K-League started out with five teams in 1983.

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