Lee hoping to make big impression with SpursAfter his last training session with PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands, Lee Young-pyo, 28, took time out for an interview before he left for Britain on Sept. 6 to join the English Premier League Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. It was a coincidental meeting with Lee ― a Baseball Youth World Cup game between Korea and Canada was being held in Eindhoven and thus a baseball reporter had a chance to interview the renowned soccer player.
Lee was delighted to be going to play in the Premier League. Lee watched Park Ji-sung move to Manchester United with envy after sharing a spot with him in the Korean national team and at PSV. Now he can play in the Premier League along with Park.
“To be honest, I was envious,” Lee said. “I gave it much thought. But I am really happy to be playing in the Premier League with Park. Playing in one of the best leagues in the world with other Korean players means that Korean soccer has moved forward.”
Asked about playing against someone who was in the same team, Lee said, “It would feel like playing against Song Chong-guk (who used to play for Feyenoord) before. I only care about who is wearing which strip, but nothing else.”
Park is a forward while Lee is a defender, and they may have to confront each other. Lee said this would make no difference to the way he plays his game.
Lee did not forget to express gratitude toward Guus Hiddink, the current manager of PSV and the former manager of the Korean national team, who took Lee and Park along to Eindhoven.
“It would have been impossible to move to the Premier League without Mr. Hiddink's decision. Eindhoven did not want me to leave. The team was against it for the last three months. Then, I went to Mr. Hiddink for help. And he helped me. I feel obliged to thank him.”
Lee continued to say good things about Hiddink.
“Mr. Hiddink is surely a world-class manager, and a good person,” Lee said. “One of the best strengths Mr. Hiddink has is that he is so charismatic he can command players emotionally. Before the game, he encourages players sometimes strongly or softly depending on the player. He does away with the unnecessary gap between players and manager and creates empathy. If people don't know each other, there is a chance for misunderstandings and discontent, but Mr. Hiddink makes sure that the relationship is solid through dialogue and exchange.”
Lee said he felt sorry that Jo Bonfrere had to resign.
“Every player wants to win and craves for a good performance, he said. We passed the World Cup qualifying rounds, but maybe we are not up to the level of the World Cup semifinal team. We did not have enough time to put the teamwork in order. There were a number of poor showings in the games played by the national team, but I don't understand why the outcome of the qualifying rounds has been underestimated.”
At that time, a Dutch goalkeeper passed by the two of us and shook hands with Lee, and said, “Young-pyo, enjoy yourself in England.”
After taking part in a ceremony to mark his joining Tottenham Hotspur last week, Lee debuted in the Premier League last Saturday in a game against Liverpool.
by Lee Tai-il