Will soccer ‘genius’ Park Chu-young fulfill his potential?There have been many sports “geniuses” crowned by the public and by us ― the media. The most recent one is Park Chu-young, 19, who is currently playing for the under-20 national socccer team.
He is no giant, he is not powerful ― he still sports “baby” muscles ― and he is not the fastest sprinter on the team, yet virtually all of the media have been busy hailing Park as the cure for the national squad’s failure to score goals.
Park’s stardom began when he started on a run of scoring consecutive goals ― a total of nine ― to top the tournament’s scoring chart, at the Qatar eight-nation U-21 International Tournament last month.
“He has the instincts that enable him to move to the right spot at the right time. That’s how he covers his weaknesses or, shall we say, his average skill area,” said Choi Sun-ho, the coach of the Pohang Steelers.
Kim Ju-seong, a soccer analyst, says Park’s shooting timing is quick, but his ball-keeping ability and dribbling skills are what set him apart.
Some have been calling for his elevation to the national squad, but Jo Bonfrere, the current coach and manager, has elected not to call Park up. Not yet.
I have seen his game. And I am still amazed by the goal that he scored against China. Starting from the left side near the opponent’s goal, with four to five defenders buzzing around him like flies, he still managed to score. And he continued to score for the entire duration of the tournament.
I liked what I saw. He was “in the zone,” that’s for sure. But how good is he really? And is he really a genius, as some say?
There have been many young “geniuses” who later became average players.
In the history of Korean soccer there is Koh Jong-su, who made the national squad at the age of 18. His precise left foot made him a standout and a star, but Koh didn’t get the call from Guus Hiddink, who dismissed him as “lazy.”
And so Koh’s star faded away. He is playing for the Chunnam Dragons, but it has been a long time since he has worn the national squad’s colors.
Park maybe a good prospect in this country, maybe even an outstanding one, but he hasn’t played at the professional level against full-grown adults, who will provide a tougher challenge.
If he can score as easily as he did last month at that level and if he can do so on the international stage, then he might be something special.
As it is, he is a prospect with a bright future who has a better chance than others to succeed if he keeps working hard.
Here, where sports stars hang out frequently with celebrities and make appearances on entertainment shows, it’s easy to forget what’s important.
I am not going to call Park and ask him what he thinks of all the ballyhoo around him. I would only be adding to the legions of fans and reporters who have besieged Park with the same stupid question.
Park promised that he would focus on only one thing: playing ball. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that he makes good on his promise, because I would hate to put his name alongside those who have been tagged as geniuses but never fulfilled their potential.
by Brian Lee