Ex-defender switching to commentary

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Ex-defender switching to commentary


Lee Young-pyo

Whenever the Korean national football team struggles on defense, fans always talk about Lee Young-pyo, 37, who was considered the nation’s best left wing-back. With his experience on European league clubs, including PSV Eindhoven of the Netherlands and Tottenham Hotspur of England, Lee was the leader of the national team’s defense for a long time.

Lee also contributed to the team’s offense by penetrating the opponents defense with his speed and making sharp crosses to midfielders and forwards. In the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup, Lee assisted on the winning goal scored by Park Ji-sung that eliminated Portugal in the first round with a beautiful cross from the left side of the penalty box.

Ilgan Sports, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, met with Lee at a restaurant on Jan. 10 in Mapo District, western Seoul, to talk about football and his plans for the future.

The player, who retired in November, said he plans to study for a Master of Business Administration in Vancouver, British Columbia, for the next two to three years. For the Brazil World Cup, Lee will be a commentator for KBS, a state-run TV network.

Q. We are very curious about your MBA program plan. What are you going to study?

A. I’m currently sending applications, so I think I should not name any school names [laughs], but I hope to take an MBA program at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. I worry about the English and math tests as they require a minimum score of 550 points out of 800 on the GMAT [Graduate Management Admission Test].

Why do you want to study business?

I think I can use the knowledge in sports. I’m also interested in running a professional sports team.

Currently, the biggest issue in Korean football is Park Ji-sung. Do you think he will come back?

To be honest, I don’t think so. Metaphorically, retiring from a team is similar to a person deciding not to use something he had been using, putting that thing into a small box and packing it with pretty wrapping paper. He already played in three World Cups successfully.

Coming back to the team means that he must reopen the packed box that contains some good memories, but no one can guarantee that he can put another good memory into the box.

But some people say participating in as many World Cups as possible is a good thing.

It depends on who you are. In my case, I think I did an excellent job in the 2002 event. Having one successful World Cup is better than 10 so-so World Cups.

You will be a commentator for the Brazil World Cup. How do you feel about that change?

I think I will make my debut as a commentator in the friendly match against Mexico on Jan. 30. I asked Song Jong-guk, my teammate on the 2002 World Cup team who has already done this job, for some tips, but he said he had no tips to give because he was born to be a commentator [laughs]. I will try to enjoy the moment.

Another teammate from your 2002 team, Ahn Jung-hwan, is also a commentator for MBC.

When he was a player, he had the best football techniques I had ever seen. Even in Europe, not many players have that level of skill. In comparison, Son Heung-min of Leverkusen is below Ahn’s level.

How are you preparing to be a commentator?

I practice while watching some A-matches that I recorded on videotape. I recently did it with the national team’s friendly match against Brazil on Dec. 12. I also study things I never looked at when I was a player. I even studied some players’ personal lifestyles. Rafael Marquez, a defender on Mexico’s national team, married twice [laughs].

You must have many stories to tell because you played in Europe for a long time. People were impressed when former player Cha Bum-kun, who worked as a commentator for MBC at the time, said during a match, “he was my backup on my team” when the camera showed Germany team’s coach, Joachim Low.

Is that so? Oh, actually Gareth Bale of Real Madrid, a 150 billion won [$140 million] man, was my backup when I was with Hotspur. He was very young at the time and played a full-back position. But since Wales will not be in Brazil, I think I can’t say that [laughs].

BY PARK SO-YOUNG [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]
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