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She Takes Girls’ Soccer to Next Level

Posted August. 23, 2006 03:23,   


A “Little Maradona” has appeared on the women’s soccer scene. The sight of the small girl powering across the field is amazing all the soccer officials, and in just three months since setting foot onto the soccer field, she has turned a bottom team into the national best.

Her name is Jung Eun-ju, 12 years old, the goal-getter in the girls’ soccer team of Gamgok Elementary School in Eumseong, Chungcheongbuk-do. Formerly a short-distance runner at Buyong Elementary in Yeongdong, she transferred to Gamgok and took up soccer in March. Now, all thanks to Jung, the “soccer prodigy,” the school has transformed itself from not having a single victory last year into reaching the final eight in the Spring League in May, coming in second place in the Queen League, and going on to win both the Junior Athletics Games in June and the Girls’ Championships in July to become a two-time champion of the national tournaments.

“In a word, she’s a genius. She catches on very quickly to what I say and runs 100 meters like a high school girl,” praised Kim Dong-gi, her coach at Gamgok Elementary.

Speed being her greatest advantage, Jung placed fourth at the Junior Athletics 80 meters race last year with a time of 11.9 seconds. In the Tongil Girls’ Soccer Tournament matches taking place at Hongcheon, Gangwon-do since August 18, she shoots across the length and breadth of the field. Despite being a frontline striker, she can play a defender or a midfielder as needed. The child genius says she gets her endless energy from having played soccer with boys since she was little.

“I played soccer often with boys because it was so fun. But I never lost,” she said happily, with a trouble-free grin.

But like a bolt out of the blue, disaster struck. Jung has been diagnosed as having her growth stopped, due to abnormalities in her growth hormones. At the moment she weighs 43 kg and is 146 cm tall, short for a sixth-grader. She has not grown at all in the past two years, and one year of drug treatment has not yielded much effect. This is because Jung and her three siblings, parentless, grew up poor under their grandmother and thus did not discover the illness until late and could not get early treatment.

“I want to play soccer so much… but what’s the point if I can’t grow any more.” Jung shook her head. Her grandmother Jang Kap-seong (age 73) also sighed in despair. “If Eun-ju has stopped growing, I think it’ll be better for her future to quit soccer and focus on her studies or learn other skills.”

“We will have to run detailed tests, but there should be a way to help her grow again since she is so young,” said Han Seung-su, a gynecologist at the Seoul National University Hospital. With help from Seo Jeong-ho, the coach of Seoul Metropolitan Government Women Soccer team, and Kim Yeongbong, former vice chairman of the Korea Women’s Soccer League, Jung Eun-ju is to receive further checkups when the Tongil matches end.