[SPORTS VIEW]World Cup prodigy belongs in EuropeMissing his mother's homemade kimchi, Park Ji-sung, 21, came home Sunday and left four days later, likely taking a good deal of the food with him.
Park was a surprise star for the national soccer team during the World Cup, after being discovered by Coach Guus Hiddink. He now plays in Japan for the Kyoto Purple Sanga club, but may soon be facing a big decision, whether to stay with the Purples or go elsewhere. The Kyoto club reportedly has offered him a contract that would guarantee 900 million won ($730,000) a year but could reach 1.2 billion won with incentives.
Greener grass might be found in England: Rumors are that two teams in the English Premier League are interested in Park. At the same time, the local media has been saying that Park is getting "love calls" from Hiddink, whatever that means.
Money now talks in soccer, and is the biggest reason athletes leave one team for another. Many soccer players come from poor backgrounds and have taken a long road to stardom. Park has said repeatedly that he won't go to Hiddink's club, PSV Eindhoven, unless the money is right.
Maybe he should think again. It's very early in Park's career, and he still has a lot to learn. So he should play for the club that gives him the best opportunity to improve his game.
No disrespect to the J-league, but if Park gets the right call from Europe, his decision should be a no-brainer. Getting ample playing time is important, but why be the head of the snake when in due time you can be the head of the dragon? Park has the right stuff to do just that.
People close to Park say he is postponing his decision because he does not want to be perceived as disloyal. After all, the Purples were the first team to give him a chance to play abroad. This kind of loyalty seems to be a common trait among Korean players, possibly because of growing up in a Confucian society. While it's always nice to hear when an athlete decides to forgo a bigger contract to stay with his old team, Park's case is different.
I don't have cable television because I can watch just about all the soccer matches I want on the regular channels. I was tinkering with the idea of paying extra so I could catch games that are only available on cable, such as matches in the European leagues.
Actually, I was waiting for a catalyst to tip the scale and then maybe, just maybe, I might have gotten that reason that I was looking for to justify shelling out cash for access to more matches. Maybe this is it: the cable channel iTV announced that it is near closing a deal with the Netherlands' Feyenoord Rotterdam team for exclusive coverage of the club's coming season. That's the team Song Jong-guk plays for.
Besides the usual coverage of matches there will also be a documentary of the handsome World Cup player, showing his daily life with the club and out and about in the Netherlands. I can just hear the screaming girls picking up their phones right now. I think I will be among the first to join them.
Er, that is, once I get permission from my mother.
"Sports View" appears Thursdays and Saturdays in the JoongAng Daily.
by Brian Lee