INTERVIEW-Soccer-Hiddink plans to keep working his magic

SEOUL, July 11 Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:39pm BST

SEOUL, July 11 (Reuters) - Coach Guus Hiddink, who has made a habit of turning second-tier teams into big event contenders, plans to continue for a long time to come -- especially after taking a young Russian side on a magical ride in Euro 2008.

"They did better than I expected ... but I saw the potential," Hiddink, 61, said in an interview with Reuters on Friday.

After taking Russia to the semi-finals where they lost to Spain, rumours circulated that the Dutchman could move to Chelsea in the Premier League but the vacancy was filled by Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari.

"The Premier League is an attractive league but not at this moment realistic. I am working with Russia," Hiddink said on a visit to South Korea where he is regarded as a hero for guiding the side on a shock semi-final run in the 2002 World Cup.

"The only possibility to leave earlier, which I am not thinking of, is in the case that Russia does not qualify for the 2010 World Cup," said the man known in Russia as 'Tsar Hiddink'.

He continued: "Five or ten years ago, when I worked in Spain, I said I would do one or two years more and then quit.

"As long as I have energy and get energy out of young people, I cannot say I will stop (coaching).

Hiddink does not mind always being the bridesmaid but never the bride for taking teams to the semi-finals without claiming a championship.

"You can see the facts and, to be realistic, about where teams come from," he said. "They succeeded by getting to the semi-finals. It is beyond expectations."

BEST-KNOWN

Hiddink is one of the best-known foreign sports figures in South Korea and he also endeared himself to the public for his foundation that brings soccer to handicapped and underprivileged children.

He was attending his foundation's event to celebrate the opening of a 'Hiddink Dream Field', a football pitch for blind children. His foundation aims to build at least 10 of his 'dream fields' around South Korea.

"We are over-privileged ... me and the companies and authorities, we have to help to facilitate the underprivileged."

Hiddink may have talked about leaving the game but feels he will always be attached to soccer.

"After I retire, I am not going to go to the sea or river and go fishing every day," he smiled. (Editing by Jon Herskovitz)