중앙데일리

Football prodigy turning heads at early age

Oct 01,2009
Kim Roman of Shingok Elementary School has garnered plenty of interest with his dominating play in net this season. By Lee Ho-hyung

Shingok Elementary School goalkeeper Kim Roman stands out from his teammates.

At 179 centimeters (5 feet, 9 inches), the 13-year-old looks like a man among boys. He’s not merely a physically gifted player; he plays at a level well ahead of his peers.

Kim has helped Shingok, located in Uijeongbu, sweep three major football tournaments at the primary school level this season. In a dominating performance, Kim started in the net for all the tournament matches and did not allow a single goal. While there were whispers among amateur and even professional coaches of Kim’s prowess as a goalie, his performance this season has caught the attention of the entire football community.

“Roman is a tall player with powerful passes that can reach the opponent’s defensive zone. Having played the midfield position in the past, he has a good sense of cutting down the opponent’s shooting angle,” lauded Kim Sang-seok, the manager of the Shingok Elementary School squad.

Kim is also often used in corner kick situations. It’s not uncommon for spectators to see him sprinting towards the opponent’s defensive zone for set-piece plays, and he headed in two goals this season off corner kicks. Considering his talent and the fact that Kim has been growing an average of seven to eight centimeters (2.76 to 3.15 inches) per year, it’s natural that a professional team is already taking an interest in the prodigy.

The Pohang Steelers of the K-League lured Kim to Pochul Middle School, which the team runs, for next season. The club has never scouted an elementary school player dating back to its founding in 1973. Kim said he is excited about his new affiliation.

“I have a Steelers jersey up on my wall and often dream about playing as a professional player,” said Kim. When asked whether he thinks about playing in his mother’s home, Russia, Kim shook his head in response. “If I’m going to play abroad, I would like to play for Manchester United where Park Ji-sung plays.”

Having been born and raised until kindergarten in Russia, Kim was teased by his peers when he started primary school in Korea. In a society that lacks cultural diversity, Kim’s appearance was the target of constant teasing and got into his share of fights. He transferred to Shingok in fourth grade for football, and the manager asked him to switch from his natural position of midfield to goalkeeper.

Now, Kim has a clear goal in mind: “I feel inspired when I hear the Korean national anthem,” he said. “Someday, I want to be a national team captain like Park Ji-sung and represent Korea at the World Cup.”


By Choi Won-chang [jason@joongang.co.kr]



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