Pohang’s Kim is waiting in the wings

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Pohang’s Kim is waiting in the wings


Kim Jae-sung

At 26, Kim Jae-sung of the Pohang Steelers is playing the best football of his career. The late-blooming midfielder is on the rise and inching closer to his goal.

Kim has always dreamed of playing in the English Premier League. In December 2008, he spent 15 million won ($13,000) of his own money for a 15-day trip to England to watch EPL games in person and get a feel for the league he hopes to join someday. During that trip, he made a vow to someday play in a football stadium in England.

On March 3, he did. Kim played for the national team in a friendly match against Ivory Coast at Loftus Road stadium in Shepherds Bush, London. He assisted on Korea’s second goal when Kwak Tae-hui headed in a curling free kick from Kim near the end of the match.

“I’ve realized a small portion of my goal,” a smiling Kim said after the game.

Kim has always had the physical tools to excel, but his performance hovered in the middle. In just a year, he’s become a member of the a national team.

“I had the speed and fairly accurate passing. In addition, I was pretty confident in one-on-one situations. But overall, I was an average player,” said Kim. “I’m playing a game I love but I felt unlucky from time to time. I was merely a hardworking player who didn’t have much of an impact in the overall outcome of the game.”

That was until the 2009 season. Under Brazilian manager Sergio Farias’ leadership, Pohang would go on to win the AFC Champions League title, with Kim playing a key role in several matches.

“I finally got the feeling that I was improving. That led me to aim higher,” Kim said. “Whereas before I was concerned about making mistakes that could harm the team, I began to be proactive and think that I needed to score or assist on goals to help the team.”

Kim made his national team debut at the Jan. 9 friendly against Zambia as a right wing, instead of his usual center midfield position. That first game wasn’t stellar, but Kim went on to score a goal in each of the national team’s next two games against Latvia in Spain on Jan. 23 and in the East Asian Championship game against Japan on Feb. 14.

Kim is competing against Bolton’s Lee Chung-yong for the right wing spot on the 23-man roster for the World Cup. Although he thinks Lee is a better player, he wants to provide help off the bench.

“I think I will be nervous until the final roster is released,” said Kim. “I want to be the player who can provide support for Lee if the need arises.”

By Ha Nam-jik [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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