Jung hopes to open doors for others in Europe

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Jung hopes to open doors for others in Europe

Jung Jo-gook, 27, who recently inked a three-year deal with AJ Auxerre last month, said he is focused on playing well in the French Ligue 1 - not only for himself, but also for other K-League players looking for a shot at playing in Europe.

While most Korean footballers make their way to Europe because of strong performances with the national team at international competitions, that was not the case with Jung.

He’s had limited appearances with the Taegeuk Warriors in the past and scored just four goals in 12 games. Instead, Jung managed to draw the interest of AJ Auxerre officials based on his strong play in the K-League this season. Jung amassed 63 goals and 19 assists over eight seasons with FC Seoul but scored 13 goals and four assists in 29 games this year to lead FC Seoul to a K-League Championship title.

“Just as Park Chu-young [of AS Monaco] paved the way for me, I want to help others get opportunities to play overseas by performing well with my club,” Jung said to the press before departing for France from Incheon International Airport yesterday.

“Unlike other Korean players based overseas, I earned a contract with a European club based on my performance in the K-League alone. I will try my best to represent the K-League with the hope that it will open doors for other players in the league.”

Jung was called in for a national team tryout on Jeju Island early last month, but on Dec. 10 he made the abrupt announcement that he had signed with AJ Auxerre. He returned to Korea to join the camp on Dec. 15, but by Dec. 20 he had left again for France.

“I joined the national team training camp on Jeju Island upon returning from France but left on Dec. 20 because of an injury,” said Jung. “I’ve had plenty of time to rest, and this is around the time when winter training camps start for K-League clubs. It’s not so much a physical thing but it’ll be important for me to get my mind focused and ready.”

AJ Auxerre is scheduled to play AS Monaco, Park Chu-young’s team, on Jan. 16. Jung is itching to make his debut with his new club and the upcoming game against AS Monaco seems ideal, but he also knows it’s more important to adjust quickly to his new team and environment.

“Ideally, I would like to play my first game in France,” said Jung. “But it’s important for me to adjust to the team and, rather than aim for individual goals, it’s my goal to become a part of the team.

“Language is another concern. I haven’t studied [French] since high school so I will have to put a lot of work into picking up the language.”

By Kim Min-kyu [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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