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World Cup Football

Park Ji-Sung

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Park Ji-Sung (born February 25, 1981 in Suwon, Gyeonggi-do) plays for the English club Manchester United in the Premier League, as well as the South Korean national football team. Park is a practicing Buddhist.[1]


Park Ji-Sung was born in Seoul, but he moved to Suwon when he still was a baby. He spent all of his childhood in Suwon, until he headed off to Myongji University in Seoul. He started playing football at the age of eleven. He won various awards starting from elementary school and played football throughout high school in Suwon. Upon graduation, he wanted to turn pro but professional clubs were less keen on signing Park, because of his small stature. The fact that he suffered flat feet may have also played a role. Failing to turn professional, Park looked at universities to continue playing football, but he had trouble there as well. Park ended up going to Myongji University after his high school coach recommended him strongly to the coach of the university. There, Kyoto Purple Sanga of Japan offered him a contract and Park took up the offer.

International career

Park began his international career as a 19 year old defensive midfielder. Park made his first international selection during 2000 Sydney Olympics U-23 regional qualifier. Park was on 2000 Sydney Olympic roster along with Lee Chun-Soo, and Lee Dong-Gook. Selected by then manager, Huh Jung-Moo, he was unable to improve or show potential as a future regular for Korean National Team. However, when Guus Hiddink became the head coach of South Korea, Park's position was shifted to that of a winger. Since then, Park has become a versatile player able to play in a variety of positions: central, right and left midfield, as well as wing-forward.

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Park scored a memorable goal during the 2002 World Cup. During the group stages South Korea had won their first game against Poland and drew against USA. In order to advance, they had to manage a draw at the least against favoured Portugal side. The game was 0-0 until the 70th minute following two red cards against Portugal, when Park scored the match winner, controlling the ball with his chest and beating a defender before volleying it into the net with his left foot. His goal eliminated Portugal and advanced South Korea into the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time.

Park's success in the World Cup continued into the 2006 tournament. He scored the equalising goal in the 2nd Group G Match against eventual finalists France in the 2006 FIFA World Cup and was voted Man of The Match. Between these two World Cup Finals, his shirt number shifted from 21 to 7, and he played in every match for South Korea.

Kyoto Purple Sanga (2001-2003)

Park's first professional contract was at J-League's Kyoto Purple Sanga in 2000. He was the first Korean footballer ever to go straight to the J-League without first playing for the K-League. In 2001 the club won the Division 2 championships and promoted to the first division. In 2002, Park led the team into the finals of the Emperor's Cup, and scored the equaliser with a header in the final match. The team went on to win the match 2-1 to become the Emperor's Cup champions for the first time in Sanga's history. He left the J-League following the World Cup.

Personal information
Full name Park Ji-Sung
Date of birth 25 February 1981 (1981-02-25)
Place of birth    Seoul, South Korea
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Playing position Winger
Attacking midfielder
Club information
Current club Manchester United
Number 13
Youth career
1999–2000 Myongji University
Senior career1
Years Club App (Gls)*
Kyoto Purple Sanga
Manchester United
76 (11)
64 (13)
81 0(8)   
National team2
Korea Republic U-23
Korea Republic
20 0(3)
77 (10)
1 Senior club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only and
correct as of 21:10, 28 February 2009 (UTC).
2 National team caps and goals correct
as of 12:36, 1 April 2009 (UTC).
* Appearances (Goals)

PSV Eindhoven (2003-2005)

Before the World Cup, Guus Hiddink was appointed the manager of Dutch club PSV Eindhoven. In 2003, Park and South Korean teammate Lee Young-Pyo moved to PSV Eindhoven, to play under their mentor and former national team coach. While Lee quickly became a fixture in PSV Eindhoven's starting lineup, Park struggled due to injuries.

However, by the end of 2003-04 season, Park had begun to adapt to the Netherlands, both on and off the field. In the 2004-05 season, the departure of Arjen Robben to Chelsea afforded Park more starting opportunities and he quickly proved his worth to the team. Along with Johann Vogel and Dutchmen Mark van Bommel and Philip Cocu, Park formed the backbone of PSV Eindhoven's midfield play with his pace and passing. Having been a top contributor of goals and assists that season, the highlight of Park's PSV career came when he scored the first goal against Italian team AC Milan at the Champions League semi-finals. PSV went on to win the home leg 3-1, but their 2-0 loss during the away leg meant AC Milan advanced to the Champions League Final.

Demonstrating the sheer scale of his hero status at the club, PSV fans even wrote a song for Park for his contributions during his time with the club. Titled "Song for Park", it was included in the PSV official album "PSV Kampioen", and repeats "Ji-Sung Park" in Dutch pronunciation the whole time.

Manchester United (2005-present)

In the closing months of the 2004-05 season, Park was vigorously scouted by top football clubs in the English Premier League and the Italian Serie A, of which the most keen were Chelsea and Manchester United. He chose to join Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United, who was impressed with Park's lively style of play, terrific pace, and unparalleled fitness. On June 22, 2005 Park signed for English Premiership side Manchester United from Dutch side PSV Eindhoven for £4 million, subject to a medical and work permit. His work permit was initially denied, but was granted on July 5 following an appeal from United.

As expected, he impressed during Manchester United's pre-season tour of the Far East, as well as in the first game of the season against Everton with his tireless roaming of the pitch and relentless pressuring of opponents, such that Ferguson picked him over Ryan Giggs and the popular Cristiano Ronaldo to start against Aston Villa on 20 August the following week.[2] During United's home game against Spurs, United captain of the day Ryan Giggs was being substituted nine minutes from time and while on the way off, passed the captain's armband to Park. Park, who was expected to pass the armband to someone more experienced such as Paul Scholes, decided to put on the armband for the last few minutes of the game. In doing so, he became the first Asian to ever captain Manchester United.

His first goal for Manchester United came on December 20, 2005, during a 3-1 win over Birmingham in the League Cup Quarter Final.[3] His first goal in the Premier League appeared to have been against Fulham on February 5, 2006, in Manchester United's 4-2 victory at Old Trafford.[4] However the Premier League's Dubious Goals Panel later ruled that this was an "own-goal" due to a deflection off a Fulham defender. Park's first official league goal came against Arsenal on April 9, in Manchester United's 2-0 victory at Old Trafford.[5]


On August 11, Manchester United announced that Park had extended his contract with the club until 2010. Speaking of Park's commitment to the club, Ferguson said "Ji-Sung has had an impressive first year and I’m pleased to have secured him to the end of the decade at least. He has adapted well to the Premiership. His awareness and ability are first class." He tore his ankle ligaments in training right before Manchester United's away match against Benfica FC, which kept him out of action for three months.[6] Park returned after recovering from his injury on December 17 in the 1-0 defeat against West Ham United. On 13 January 2007, Park played a major part in the in a 3-1 victory against Aston Villa, assisting C. Ronaldo and Carrick in their two goals, and even scoring himself. On 10 February 2007, Park again played a significant part for the team in a 2-0 victory against Charlton, in which he created chances opening the play and even scoring his second goal of the league campaign. On 17 March 2007, Park played a decisive role in the 4–1 victory over Bolton Wanderers, scoring two of the Red Devils' four goals. On 30 March, he scored a goal and set a goal up as Manchester United won their match against Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford. He also assisted Ole Gunnar Solskjær's last goal too. [1]

In April 2007, Park was sent to America for surgery on a recurring knee injury, putting an end to his season.[7] Although sidelined by injury for most of the season, he still played in enough matches to become the first Korean player to win the Premiership. Expected to return to action by January 2008, Park made his return to the United team ahead of schedule as he made a substitute appearance in the Boxing Day (December 26) fixture against Sunderland and received an above average rating of 7.0 by SkySports. He made his first start for the United first team since his injury on January 1, 2008 in a Premiership fixture against Birmingham City.


In 2005, Park was chosen as one of the five nominees for the best forward/striker category in the prestigious UEFA Club Football Awards. The other four were Adriano (Inter), Samuel Eto'o (FC Barcelona), Ronaldinho (FC Barcelona), and Andriy Shevchenko (A.C. Milan). Amid fierce competition, Ronaldinho eventually won the award. In the same year, he was a candidate for the European Footballer of the Year award amongst Europe's 50 best players. While he did not win that title, he was selected in EuroSport Best 11 for 2007, a title which represents Europe's best 11 players for the year. In February, he was chosen by German football magazine Kicker as the Premier League's best player. Additionally, Park was selected as a midfielder for the SkySports Best 11 of the Premiership in March, along with fellow Manchester United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo.

Guus Hiddink in Park's life

Most people agree that Park would not have been as successful without Guus Hiddink as his mentor. It was Huh Jung-Moo who elected Park into the Olympic squad, but it was not until Hiddink's decision to convert the holding midfielder into an attacking winger that Park's potential blossomed. It was Hiddink who picked Park as a winger in the 2002 World Cup, and then signed him for PSV Eindhoven. At PSV, Park's first season was rather disappointing, but Hiddink kept his trust in Park, repeatedly saying to the media that Park is a great player and a great asset to the team. Park thanked Hiddink with superb performances on the pitch.

The following is a translation from Park's autobiography.

"I was sitting alone in an empty locker room, left leg injured. I need to prove my worth when the opportunity is given. I look at my leg, powerless, and wonder why I had to get hurt in this moment. Then, Coach Hiddink appears out of nowhere with an interpretor and speaks to me in English. Not understanding, I stare at the interpretor.
"He says you have great mentality. With that kind of mental strength, you will become a great player."
"I was shocked. Before I could murmur the easy 'thank you' in English, he was gone. My heart was pounding. The coach always seemed to be so far away, but he came to me and told me I have great mentality. Somewhere inside, energy was rousing up."
"... Mentality. I have nothing else to boast, but one thing I could do is to never give up. I will endure all hardships, even if I would die from it. And I will keep this mentality."
"... In the entire World Cup, I played with those words ringing in my ears. With my mentality, I can become a great player. I kicked the ball and ran around the field clinging on to those words. For better or for worse, I am calm and quiet, so not many people take notice of me. But I was sure that Coach Hiddink would be looking at me and urging me to move on. This gave me courage."
"If it was not for Coach Hiddink, I would not be where I am now."
"With the words 'where I am now,' I am not referring to me becoming famous or being able to purchase a spacious condo for my parents. I am referring to the fact that I learned to love myself more."
"Within a minute, what Coach Hiddink said to me changed my life forever. I feel a bit shy thinking about what he would think after reading this, but he is my 'master' and I owe him everything and I won't be able to repay it in my lifetime."

After scoring the winner against Portugal in the World Cup to secure a place in the last 16, knocking Portugal out in the process, the first thing Park did was to run to Hiddink and gave him a bear hug.

AFC Controversy

In 2005, Park Ji-Sung was widely regarded as the most prominent candidate by far to win the AFC Player of the Year award; however, unfortunate circumstances led him to forfeit his chance of nomination after AFC announced the prospective omission of nominees who could not attend the AFC Annual Awards gala held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This sparked much controversy in Asia, especially with other notable omissions such as Japan's Shunsuke Nakamura and Iran's Ali Karimi. The official ceremony was to be held on 30th of November 2005, while Manchester United had an upcoming game against West Bromwich Albion in the 4th round of the League Cup on the exact same date. In a difficult position, Park readily decided to play for his club rather than to fly over to Malaysia to claim his prize. While the ceremony was being carried out in Kuala Lumpur, Park displayed an impressive performance in the match against West Brom, contributing to both United's 3-1 victory and the booking of their place in the quarterfinals of the League Cup. English and Korean press heavily criticized AFC when they didn't nominate Park for the award.


Kyoto Purple Sanga
  • J. League Division 2 Champions: 2001
  • J. League Division 2 MVP: 2001
  • Emperor's Cup Winner: 2002
  • Emperor's Cup MVP: 2002
  • J. League Best XI: 2001
  • J. League Best XI: 2002
PSV Eindhoven
  • Holland Casino Eredivisie Champions: 2004/05
  • Holland Casino Eredivisie Best XI: 2004/05
  • Amstel Cup Winner: 2005
  • Amstel Cup MVP: 2005
Manchester United
  • League Cup Winner: 2006
  • FA Premier League Champions: 2006/07
Korea Republic
  • FIFA World Cup Fourth Place: 2002
Personal Honours
  • One of five nominees for the best forward/striker category in the prestigious UEFA Club Football Awards. The other four were Adriano (Inter), Eto'o (Barcelona), Ronaldinho (Barcelona), and Shevchenko (AC Milan): 2005
  • European Footballer of the Year Candidate: 2005
  • EuroSport Best XI midfielder: 2007
  • UEFA Champions League Best XI: 2005
  • Kicker Premier League Best Midfielder: 2006
  • Kicker UEFA Champions League Best Midfielder: 2005
  •'s Best Asian Footballer in Europe: 2007

References and Notes

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