The UK is half way through the football season and currently Manchester United holds 2nd place in the league. Now what is the link between Korea and one of the UK’s top Premiership teams? Lets take a look. Korean’s first discovery of the beautiful game was back in 1882 when British crew members played a game of football during their visit to the port of Incheon (Wiki). And now Korean footballing Legend Park Ji-Sung plays midfielder for non-other then, Manchester United. Korea first gained recognition in the footballing world during the 2002 World Cup hosted in Japan and Korea and since then, Korea’s very own Park Ji-Sung has become the most decorated Asian footballer in history (source Wiki) over taking Japanese legend Hidetoshi Nakata and fellow Asian star of 2002 Junichi Inamoto (Japan).
Park Ji-Sung was born in Seoul but grew up in Suwon, a city 19 miles south of Seoul. He began playing football in elementary school and had many clubs keeping an eye on him as he grew up. But despite this, Park’s footballing career did not have a great start as he was apparently rejected by a number of professional football clubs due to his small stature (source wiki). His high school coach came to his rescue by recommending him to the coach of Myongji University football team where he was given the chance to train with the National team.
After his debut with the National team and a year of playing for the University team, Park was scouted and offered a contract by Japanese Team Kyoto Purple Sanga, a move that cause the scout to be heavily criticised. But Park then proved his worth by helping the Sanga win the Division 2 and be promoted back into Division 1 after having been relegated to the lower league the year before (source parkji-sung.com). Park then continued to help the team make history by aiding them in their first and only win of the Empire Cup.
2002 was quite the significant year for Park Ji-Sung as this was the year that South Korea establish themselves as THE Asian team to watch as they got through to the semi final at the 2002 World Cup; the furthest any Asian team has ever achieved! After the World Cup, Park proceeded to follow their National Team Coach Guus Hiddink over to Europe in 2003 and joined PSV Eindhoven. Upon his departure from the Japanese Team, Kyoto Purple Sanga soon got relegated back to Division 2 (source Parkji-sung.com) and have since never managed to get past the 3rd round for the Empire Cup (wiki).
At the beginning of Park’s career in PSV Eindhoven, he did not make much of an impact due to injuries but he soon familiarised himself with the Dutch team and became known as a member of the midfield backbone. During the 04-05 season he was also the Top contributor of goals and assists and Park joined the likes of Ronaldinho as a nominee for the 2005 UEFA Best Forward award. Fun fact: PSV fans dedicated a song to Park Ji-Sung in their official album PSV Kampioen titled ‘Song for Park’.
Since then Park Ji-Sung was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson for Manchester United with a contract worth a rumoured £4million!!! And the Korean Golden Boy has been here in the home of Football since 2005. During his time at Manchester United, Park Ji-Sung has escalated into the GLOBAL football icon that we all know him as today. More to come about this footballing legend dubbed “Three Lungs Park” soon!