With the K League transfer window set to open in just a few hours, all eyes are on whether or not two well-known foreign players will be making the leap into Korean football. @KORFootballNews reported last week that Alex Baumjohann and Mix Diskerud are reportedly in talks with undisclosed K League 1 clubs.
Alex Baumjohann is a well-traveled attacking midfielder who was a Schalke youth product, having been capped by the German under-21 side, before moving on to playing for German clubs at the highest level such as Bayern Munich, FC Kaiserslautern and Hertha BSC. In 2017, the 31 year-old decided it was time for a new challenge and made the move to Brazil, where he played for Coritiba and Vitoria. However, a broken hand and other circumstances kept him off of the pitch and Baumjohann cancelled his contract with Vitoria in the past couple of weeks. Now a free agent, the German is looking for a new challenge.
Mix Diskerud is well-known to followers of the MLS or the US national team. The Norwegian-born midfielder has 38 caps for the United States, having made the 2014 World Cup squad. His playing career started off in Norway at Frigg, and later Stabaek, before transferring to Norwegian giants Rosenborg in 2012. The American international, who made the difficult choice to represent the US over Norway in 2009, joined New York City FC in 2015, and scored the franchise’s first ever goal against Orlando City. He’s currently on loan with IFK Goteborg in Sweden (from Manchester City).
We asked both players a couple brief and quick questions about Korea and what piqued their interest in Korea and the K League.
Why are you considering Korea?
AB: I always wanted to play in Asia, either in Japan or Korea. I have some options in Japan, but I prefer Korea (…) it’s the strongest league in Asia. My best friend Edu (of Jeonbuk Hyundai) has told me good things about Korea. There are great fans, the organization and the Korean people, and nice cities too. There are also great stadiums – I like the Suwon, Incheon, Seoul and Daejeon stadiums.
Which K League players are you looking forward to playing with or against?
AB: The keeper is very good (Cho Hyun-woo), from Daegu. I like him. And I also like Dejan Damjanovic, one of the greatest K League scorers of all time.
Editor’s note: Baumjohann said this before Cho burst onto the scene after his 6-save shutout of Germany!
What do you believe you could gain personally by playing in Korea?
MD: If I ever get to go to Korea, it is of course to learn about traditions that stems from another great civilization, and to grasp the emerging aspirations that so vividly comes about while being placed and squeezed between the two huge economies and “ideological empires” of China and Japan. And also while being in a constant state of civil war, and having another superpower with rather unpredictable shifts in values and foreign policies as your ally. Korea finds in many ways itself in the very middle and the center of gravity of the world’s new economic power zone, yet still emerging.
Are there any Korean or K League players you admire?
MD: Park Jong-woo has inspired me. I admire team players who dare to be individuals on other arenas, or in other walks of life. When we played Korea, in California (in a 2013 international friendly), I swapped jerseys with him. (…) At the micro level, it was probably stupid and counterproductive for the adherence to and strengthening of world wide sport ethics that I normally cherish, but in the grander scope – and on the macro scale – it was the right thing to do when it was done by an individual and given the background I mentioned above. (…) A definite admiration for what he did back then, and in the context it should be read into when it was done.
Editor’s note: Diskerud is referring here to Park Jong-woo’s famous celebration after Korea won the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics, where he brandished a sign saying “Dokdo is our land” in reference to the Liancourt Islands, claimed by both South Korea and Japan (but under Korean jurisdiction). Park was subsequently not awarded a bronze medal because he engaged in political statements but was still exempt from military service by the Korean government.
With the K League transfer window opening, it’s not yet clear if either of these moves will happen. Rumours are swirling that Baumjohann may be close to joining the Suwon Bluewings, especially because Brazilian Cristovam vacated a foreign spot in the past week after appearing to move to Bucheon. Meanwhile, Diskerud has been heavily linked to Ulsan Hyundai, another club with existing foreign spot vacancies, insinuating as much on his Twitter feed before also paying “respect” to Korea after their 2-0 victory over Germany in the World Cup.
Though it remains to be seen if they will indeed suit up for K League clubs this summer, the fact that well-traveled foreigners are considering Korea as a way to continue their careers can only be a positive thing for Korean football.