Lee Young-pyo agrees to play one more year

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Lee Young-pyo agrees to play one more year


Lee Young-pyo, a defender for the Vancouver Whitecaps, shows his trademark smile while announcing his decision to play one more season with the MLS club during a press conference in Seoul, yesterday. By Kim Min-kyu

When Lee Young-pyo chose Vancouver as his fifth home overseas in December of last year, most saw it as a decision to wind down his career.

The 2012 season in Major League Soccer, however, turned out to be a second heyday for the former national team member with the Vancouver Whitecaps choosing him as its Player of the Year, a rare feat for a 35-year-old defender.

His uniform became the 14th most-purchased among the hundreds of the MLS players and the most for a Whitecap player, proving his unexpected popularity.

So it came as no surprise yesterday when he said he would play one more year for the Canadian club before hanging up his boots.

“My physical condition has not deteriorated yet,” Lee told a press conference in Seoul while announcing his decision. “Also, I have received a good offer from the club.”

He said that the Whitecaps have offered a chance for him to learn about every major business necessary for the management of a football club. He said he will learn from the club’s front office about such things as administration, finance and marketing so that when he retires he can pursue his dream of managing a club in some respect.

He said that he had considered retirement after the 2012 season to study sports business. After the Whitecaps agreed to help him on this front, he has given up on the idea of an early retirement, he said.

Lee moved to the MLS club after two seasons with Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia. The officials of his Seoul-based agency, Jissen, unveiled yesterday that he had been given offers from “multiple big league clubs,” but chose to go to the Northern American league to learn about sports management.

Lee played every 2012 season match for the Whitecaps except for one. He said he won’t be as active next year, as the club has promised to give him a break during road trips to the eastern region.

Lee rose to international stardom during the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup, when Korea, led by Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, advanced to the semifinals, beating several football powerhouses en route.

Lee was a key defender for the Hiddink team, setting up the winners for Park Ji-sung in the final match of the Group stage against Portugal and for Ahn Jung-hwan in the Round of 16 against Italy.

After the 2002 World Cup, he embarked on a long overseas career starting with the Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, where he played alongside Park under the leadership of Hiddink. He moved to the English Premier League side Tottenham in 2005 and spent four seasons there before moving to Dortmund in Germany and then Al-Hilal.

His work ethic stayed the same, but as he aged his career appeared to be waning. All that changed when he signed with Vancouver. The Whitecaps were knocked out in the first playoff game against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Lee turned professional in 2000 with the Anyang LG Cheetahs, the predecessor of FC Seoul.

During the press conference, Lee also spoke about the frequent dismissal of head coaches in the K-League, saying that it was a reflection of teams’ short-sighted management. Of the 16 K-League clubs, 10 of them have changed head coaches during or after the season.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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