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Park Ji-sung’s Game Is Pride of Korea

Posted June. 20, 2006 03:00,   


Park Ji-sung is rough and rustic. He was born in 1981 in Seoul and started soccer in third grade at Sannam elementary school in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province. Here is a story that shows his diligence. At elementary school, his team was ordered by their coach to do push-ups. Their coach did not appear as it got late, and other players went home thinking he would not come back. As Park did not come home late, his parents went out looking for their only son. When they got to the school, Park was doing push-ups, sweating like a pig.

Park grew up into an exemplary student. However, since he was thin and he did not stand out, no college or professional team wanted him. Lee Doo-chul, then coach of Suwon Technical High School recommended Park to Myongji University coach, who was coach of Lee. He grew muscle power through weight training and became better day by day. Park joined the Olympic national team, led by Huh Jung-moo of the Chunnam Dragons, and met Guus Hiddink in the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup. He became the first Korean Premier Leaguer who earns 3.5 billion won a year and recorded 7.4 billion won in transfer fees.

In the 2006 Germany World Cup, Park was a striker at the June 19 game against France. He played a “game of spirit.” In the 36th minute in the second half when the two teams were almost exhausted, he rushed near the goal post and successfully scored on ball by Jo Jae-jin’s header, not missing a golden opportunity.

“Because we were losing, making a goal was necessary. I thought there was only one place to which Jae-jin will pass the ball.”

The Korean team let the French team open the scoring in the ninth minute and was losing out, but with Park’s goal, it escaped from the crisis. It was also Park who laid a foundation for scoring when the team was losing to Togo by one score on June 13. The hero of the 2002 World Cup followed Guus Hiddink and entered PSV Eindhoven of the Netherlands. But it was not easy. He suffered injury in his right knee and underwent surgery. He was in slump. His fans and teammates turned their backs on him. He deliberated on whether to give up the European stage that he had dreamed of. Yet he ran for the Netherlands’ team again despite all difficulties. And finally last June, he advanced to Premier League’s Manchester United of England.

Korea sent acclaim to Park’s rush. What he showed was the spirit of never giving up and trying one’s best even in most unfavorable conditions and difficulties. That was the Korean spirit of tenaciously overcoming hardships.

Koreans are proud of him.

Won-Hong Lee bluesky@donga.com