Jul 27, 2010
Song Jin Hyung’s exclusive interview (by Edouard Dupas and Kim Soohee)
Former Newcastle Jets Korean midfielder Song Jin Hyung has signed a 2-year contract this summer with the French Ligue 2 side FC Tours to make his first steps in Europe after a successful stay in Australia. Song Jin Hyung, a fast and skillful 23-year old player has accepted to talk to footkorean about his objectives for the coming season and about Korean soccer.
1) Song Jin Hyung, Hello and welcome to France…So, what led you into signing with a French Ligue 2 team ? What attracted you to Tours ? Did you know anything about French soccer and French clubs before signing with Tours FC ?
“It was rather unexpected. I first went to Holland in March for a trial at PSV Eindhoven (the Dutch powerhouse club where Korean internationals Huh Jung Moo, Lee Young Pyo and Park Ji Sung shone) to discover European standards of football. I was traveling in Europe when FC Tours coach contacted me to propose a test. When I came and tried my luck there, he was pleased. He then quickly proposed a deal which I accepted. At first I was a bit uncomfortable because Tours FC plays in Ligue 2 which was a bit under my goal standards, but now I just hope our team will get promoted to Ligue 1 and I am satisfied with the club Ligue 1 the supporters and staff gave me a warm welcome, I visited France and found it is a very enjoyable and impressive country. I am happy here and will get to learn French starting September. To be honest I didn’t know much about French soccer before joining Tours, I just watched some clubs playing the UEFA Champions League on TV. However it seems clear to me that French football is by far faster, rougher and more demanding than most Asian leagues.”
2) What memories do you keep of your stay in Australia ? What were the good and bad moments ? What are the positive and negative aspects points of the A-League ? Do you consider the K-league superior to it ?
“I went to Australia with the idea of reaching Europe afterwards. The plan was to learn to adapt myself to another country, to get used to living abroad. The A-League is nice to follow, life was smooth in Newcastle, I gained a lot of experience in Australia, it helped me to improve and I think it will help me still in Tours. At first, I had important communication problems and felt alone. But gradually it went better and better as I endeavoured to learn English and I felt more and more comfortable. Regarding the A-league level, I think Australian clubs develop a very rough and agressive style of play that reminds of rugby, so it looks a bit rudimentary. But we have to keep in mind that the professional A-League was founded only a few years ago, in a country where soccer is not the main sport, so of course we can’t deny that K-league is better on the overall in terms of clubs, trainings, but I really think I have got stronger even playing in a so called inferior championship. Australian soccer is definitely improving now and i think it will become a powerhouse of Asian football in a few years.”
3) Back in 2007, you were part of the Korean squad that qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada, with the likes of Ki Sung Yong and Lee Chung Yong… What memories do you keep of this tournament ? What do you think about Ki Sung Yong and Lee Chung Yong current careers ? Do you still have contacts with members of that team ?
“I remember there was an excellent atmosphere reigning in this youth team, we had good players, each of us had real talent (Ki Sung Yong, Lee Chung Yong), with strong individual skills but we were also very young and inexperienced, with only potential that demanded to be exploited. Unfortunately, success was not there as we were eliminated at the group stage (against Brazil, USA and Poland). I think we still have to wait some years to see how well the players from this squad in Canada will fare. It has been a long period now since I had news from Ki Sung Yong and Lee Chung Yong but I kept in touch with other members of that team: Shin Kwang Hoon (Jeonbuk Motors) and Ko Myong Jin (FC Seoul). We are very close friends.”
4) Many players of this 2007 generation have experienced numerous troubles when it came to turning to professional soccer, (take for instance Shin Young Rok), and did not shine as they were expected to by Korean soccer observers and fans. What is your opinion ?
“I think there are lots of factors which have to be taken in account : how well the players are surrounded, trained, supported, circumstances and plain luck all matters at that age. Ki Sung Yong and Lee Chung Yong owe a lot to FC Seoul coach Senol Gunes, who gave a crucial boost to their professional career by including them in the A team allowing them to play in K-league at a very young age. All of us did not benefit from such impetus, and from this 2007 U-20 squad, only 5 or 6 players really gained access to a successful professional career, but it is still too late to write off all of them. One has to try his luck again and again, despite of all the failures, disappointment or problems we may experience and shall then overcome.”
5) What is your opinion about the South Korean team performance at the South African World Cup ? How did you find Ki Sung Yong and Lee Chung yong ? And North Korea ?
“I was very happy to see our team reaching the round of 16 of the tournament. Our team was rather successful, and the most important thing to underline is that it was our first success abroad. Ki and Lee have performed wonderfully for a first world cup, they kept cold minded and were not overwhelmed by the context, they scored and made score, which prove they are already very strong mentally. I think Huh’s 23-man squad had an interesting balance and harmony between young players and 2002 veterans… I congratulate all of them ! The match against Uruguay was painful, because we lost while dominating and scoring and giving the impression we could achieve a better outcome. We also lacked luck, perhaps. Vis-a-vis the North Korean side, they gave Brazil a good fight and lacked experience afterwards. This World Cup will probably help them in the future.”
6) Huh Jung Moo never called you for the national team; Do you still hope to be selected one day ?
“I never had the opportunity to meet Huh Jung Moo so I don’t know him. When Huh announced his 23 players list for the World Cup in June, I was in the Netherlands for my trial at PSV. I was not disappointed to not be part of the team, because I knew I had not achieved enough to deserve such a privilege. Of course I dream of playing for the national team, but as for now, I just want to enjoy a successful season with my new club and work hard to prove my worth. I would love to play in Ligue 1 for clubs like Bordeaux, Lyon or Marseille, but if it is possible with Tours, it would be even more fantastic. I think I could join the national team only after such an achievement. I am cautious.”
7) What can Korean players bring to European soccer ?
“I believe Korean football players are patient, determined and persevering, probably more than any other Asian nation players. We really have a true adaptability and are very ambitious. We usually don’t give up easily.”