Gwangju’s Jung Jo-gook named MVP
Jung, a veteran striker who led the league in scoring with 20 goals, enjoyed the second wind of his career this season and eventually collected 46 votes out of 109 to be selected as the MVP, beating Seoul’s Osmar Barba and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors’s Leonardo Rodrigues Pereira in the process. Jung was also included in the Best-11 of the Classic as one of the best two forwards along with Carlos Adriano of Seoul.
His MVP honor is the first one to be given to a player from a team that did not finish as champions or runners-up in the top-flight league.
Upon debuting in 2003, Jung quickly garnered stardom as the future of Korean football. Despite the hype, his career was a rather bumpy ride.
After being discharged from the military, he rejoined Seoul but the Jung that fans remembered was nowhere to be found, ending the 2015 season after scoring just one goal.
Jung’s biggest supporter during his slump was his son, Jung Tae-ha. Tae-ha, who is six years old, asked once in the past why Jung is not playing in games.
Jung said, “This ripped my heart out and forced me to put aside everything else. I just wanted to become a father that my son can be proud of.”
Then came Jung’s biggest decision of his career yet, moving from his beloved Seoul to Gwangju FC, despite the decline in annual salary and having to live apart from his family.
“My family struggled at first but they supported me nonetheless,” recollected Jung.
Owing to his family’s unconditional support, Jung began the season on a high note, netting two goals on Mar. 12 during their season opener. “Jung plays with his heart and desperation,” said Nam Ki-il, Jung’s skipper. “That inspired the entire team.”
Other than Jung, Hwang, who took up Seoul’s helm in the middle of the season, earned his second manager of the year award after leading his team to take the championship title. “I am not sure if I deserve this honor,” said Hwang. “Half the credit goes to Choi Yong-soo [Hwang’s predecessor].”
BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [email@example.com]