Future striker Park is in a league apartPark Chu-young is only 19 years old and plays on the country’s under-21 national soccer team, but he is already viewed by many as being at the top of the short list of potential candidates for the full national team.
After just six years playing the game Park is close to being a “scoring machine,” becoming the No. 1 goal producer, using his head or either foot to score.
Given his formidable power and speed, and inimitable technique, many say that Park, who is 182 centimeters (6 feet) tall and weighs 74 kilograms (163 pounds), is a born soccer player. Not since Cha Bum-kun, now the Suwon Samsung Bluewings coach, came on the scene in the 1970s has a player been talked about as much as Park.
During the under-21 international friendly tournament in Doha, Qatar, which ended Thursday, Park stood out as a player apart.
A devout Christian, Park is calm, responsible and also humble, but his ambitions stretch toward being the best soccer player in the world.
During the final match on Thursday, he scored twice against Japan as Korea won 3-0. Park’s feat began on Jan. 16, when he scored two goals during the game with China, followed by three against Ukraine on Jan. 18, and two in the semifinal match with Algeria on Jan. 24.
In total, Park accounted for nine goals out of the 11 Korea scored during the event in Doha. Park won the highest goal scorer award and the MVP, adding to the highest scorer award and MVP in the Asia Youth Championship last October.
Soccer professionals point out that Park is one of the best goal scorers in Korean soccer history.
“Park is excellent in making a smooth transition into shooting from dribbling,” said Lee Yong-su, KBS soccer commentator.
“Park always moves and is difficult to mark,” said Shin Mun-seon, SBS correspondent.
They say Park’s biggest strength lies in precise shooting; three shots out of four Park hit during the game with China were “effective,” meaning the ball headed toward the goal.
During the game with Algeria, he had 11 shots and eight were labeled effective. Park’s accuracy in scoring is nearly twice the rate of the national team.
Professionals say Park can dribble so well that he can create enough space to shoot for goal, and has good timing for powerful shots. During the match with Algeria, Park dribbled past the defense to a corner on the right of the goal and turned around and shot for a goal; he easily evaded the three-to-four person close marking.
“Park is so smart that he intuitively knows his timing in confusing defenses,” said Byon Byong-ju, Park’s high school coach.
In 1998, when Park was a freshman at Chunggu Middle School in Daegu, his teacher said to him, “Chu-young, you got 150 again on your IQ test. With this much intelligence, why do you want to become an athlete?”
Park responded, “Teacher, I like playing soccer. I would like to be the best at doing what I like.”
Park’s father, Park Pil-yong, 53, granted his son’s wish to become a soccer player and supported him, sending him to study in Brazil for one year.
Since the Asia Youth Championship, where Park sidestepped four Chinese defenders, soccer fans call for Park’s participation on the national team.
Park, however, is still humble. “I am not there yet. I need to strengthen my power with weight training,” he said.
National team coach Johannes Bonfrere is cautious, saying Park still needs more experience.
Park’s favorite players are Thierry Daniel Henry and Zinedine Zidane; he says when he watches Zidane’s clear-cut passes and Henry’s running at defenses, he becomes restless.
by Jeong Young-jae, Limb Jae-un
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