August 31, 2012
Deadline day for the transfer window closed a few hours ago and now Park Chu-Young has ended (for the moment) soccer’s version of purgatory, having signed a 1 year loan from Arsenal to recently promoted La Liga club Celta Vigo. Additional terms of the deal offer the possibility of a permanent move from north London next year. This is without a doubt a relief to Park and to Korean fans of the South Korean national team player. With some differences of opinions, a number of analysts believe Park did not get a fair shot with Arsene Wenger after he swiped (and some say stole) him from Lille at this time exactly a year ago (see my first article for the Tavern: The Case for Park Chu-Young).
The Korean striker was given his sky blue jersey, #18, and said at his opening press conference, “I’ll go into the team and I will adapt quickly…we’ll play as the Koreans do, fighting until the end and not give up ever.”
Interestingly, Celta Vigo’s press reports listed him by the spelling Arsenal used, ‘Park Ju Young’; however his jersey spelled out ‘Park Chu-Young,’ which has been his anglicized version of his name in international play.
Now Chu-Young becomes only the second Korean to enter into La Liga’s ranks (Lee Chun-soo was the first to do so, first in 2003 with Real Sociedad and later Numancia).
So let’s get familiar with Celta Vigo. Here’s a few starters:
- They’ve been a mainstay of La Liga for decades, with their best performances in the late ’90s and early 2000s. They’ve qualified for the UEFA Cup and Champions League several times. Their last go around in the CL was in 2004. Celta Vigo got to the 1st knockout round of the Champions League, and subsequently eliminated by Thierry Henry & Arsenal.
- They were relegated after the 2003/2004 season, promoted back the next year and actually finished 6th in 2005/2006, then had their final last relegation slide the year after. They’ve been stuck in the 2nd division for 5 years until winning promotion with a 2nd place finish last year.
- Their nickname is Los Celestes – translates as the Sky Blues. That’s definitely reflected in their sky blue and white uniforms, which stand for colors of the Galician flag.
- Their stadium is called the Balaidos and seats 32,500 spectators.
- It’s young in the season and so far they’ve dropped their first 2 games, losing 0-1 at home against Malaga and 2-1 at Real Sociedad last saturday.
Park received a really warm welcome from several hundred Celta supporters at the Balaidos. He signed his papers, took his medical (odd: the team went so far as to publish photos of different stages of his physical) and soon enough he was trotted out as the 6th and newest addition to the squad. [Big up to the bigsoccer.com forum dealing with PCY. I was able to get the latest info, photos and video from the very active community there.] http://bit.ly/OFGGQP
It’s exciting to think about Chu-Young playing the same pitch against Messi, Xavi, Higuain, Ronaldo and other high calibre players. So when’s the first game he might show up? Well tomorrow Sept 1, Celta plays Osasuna at Balaidos, followed by the 2 week off for FIFA related games, and then Sept 16 at Valencia. I’m guessing Valencia will be his first Celta game.
Can’t wait until Sept 16? PCY was recalled to participate as a member of the senior South Korean national team on Sept 11th – a critical World Cup Qualifier at Uzbekistan. His recall back to the senior men’s national team was another reward for helping to win the Bronze medal for Korea in the London Olympics last month -and another indication he is getting himself out of his Arsenal purgatory.
[update] Brendan Dunlop, host of Fox Soccer News commented tonight on which clubs benefited the most at the end of the transfer window: “…I think one of the biggest winner of the day might be Celta Vigo. Park Chu Young might singlehandedly be able to keep them up.”
Celta Vigo website: www.celtavigo.net
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