Redknapp strips Park of captaincy…but Brazilian legend GK admits Park is a good captain
Brazilian legendary goalkeeper Julio Cesar, who played alongside Park Ji-Sung at Queens Park Rangers (QPR) in the English Premier League, admires the incredible progress that Korean soccer has made thanks to Park Ji-Sung.
He also admired the leadership of Park Ji-sung, who was the captain at the time.
Brazilian legend Cesar visited Korea on the 10th ahead of the ‘Legends All-Star Game’ to be held at Goyang Sports Complex in October. On the 11th, César held a youth soccer clinic for the Kyungshin Middle School soccer team and met with Korean soccer aspirants, and on the same day, he attended a press conference at the Fairmont Ambassador Seoul Grand Room in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul. Cesar was particularly fond of Park Ji-Sung, who he played with at QPR, and emphasized that Korean soccer is where it is today because of him.
“I met Park Ji-Sung at QPR in 2012. When I first saw him, I thought he was really good technically,” he said. “He had a good personality and got along well with his teammates. He was also a good captain. I shared a locker room with Park for two years and made a lot of good memories,” he recalled.
After playing in the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup, Park moved to PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands under Gus Hiddink, before joining world-renowned Manchester United in 2005. Alex Ferguson, United’s manager at the time, watched Park play in the Netherlands and fell in love with him. Park was never a regular starter, but rather a 12th man in the rotation, and he played through the 2011/12 season, coming up big in important games.
However, as he entered his 30s, his playing time dwindled due to frequent injuries. In search of more opportunities, Park moved from the second tier to QPR, where he was successful in staying. QPR made Park their captain, and Cesar, who was playing for Italian giants Inter Milan at the time, joined QPR to play alongside Park.
QPR’s owner, Tony Fernandes, the chairman of airline AirAsia, has rolled up his sleeves to bring in big-name players. Park Ji-sung was the first ‘big name’ signing. Park formed a good partnership with Cesar and Rio Ferdinand’s brother, Anton Ferdinand, and vowed to improve in his new team.
However, Park hit a rough patch at QPR. QPR struggled at the start of the season, eventually sacking manager Mark Hughes and bringing in Harry Redknapp to change things up. As a result, the captain’s armband that Park wore on his left forearm disappeared. In effect, he was stripped of his captaincy.
Park didn’t stay with the club for long, as he went on loan to PSV in the Netherlands the following season, 2013/14. After a year with PSV, he chose to retire from active duty at an earlier age than expected due to the after-effects of a knee injury. However, Cesar was able to witness the development of Korean soccer through Park and recognized his “captaincy” over a decade later.
“I think Korean soccer has improved a lot because of Park Ji-Sung. Recently, I saw Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur and I think he is amazing,” said Cesar. “I also met Korea in a national team A match. I was able to see and feel the development of Korean soccer firsthand during my visit.”
Italian legend Gianluca Cambrotta, who attended the press conference with Cesar, also recalled his encounter with Park Ji-sung. In the 2007/08 season, while playing for Barcelona in Spain, Zambrotta faced Park Ji-sung in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. Park was playing as a winger and Zambrotta was playing as a fullback.
“We also met in the Champions League semifinals, when I was playing for Barcelona,” says Zambrotta. “He was definitely one of the strongest Asian players I’ve ever played against,” says Zambrotta, “and I remember playing against him all over the world. It always amazed me that there were such good players in Asia.”
At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Zambrotta played a key role in Italy’s first trophy in 24 years. He was a world-class left-back. He played for Juventus, FC Barcelona, and Inter Milan, and was named to the World’s Best 11 shortly after the tournament. Of all those star players, Chambrotta still remembers Park Ji-sung clearly. Whenever Park Ji-sung faced Barcelona, he would tie up the opposing striker Lionel Messi, who is now revered as a “soccer god,” to impress and help South Korea reach the UEFA Champions League final in 2007/08.
As Cesar and Chambrotta say, Park Ji-sung was a pioneer in paving the way for Korean players to go abroad. His nickname, “Haeberji,” which is short for father of international soccer, reflects how much of an impact he had on Korean soccer 안전놀이터.
Park made a good impression on the European soccer community during his time at Man Utd, which led to the arrival of some of the biggest names in Korean soccer, including Park Joo-young, Koo Ja-cheol, Ki Sung-yong, and now Tottenham captain and top ace Son Heung-min.
Even soccer legends who played at the same time as Park acknowledge that he had a huge impact on the development of Korean soccer.