Park Ji-Sung’s Last Game / Leverkusen vs FC Seoul friendly Wednesday

At times a bittersweet emotional and equal parts celebratory game in Seoul took place last Friday as 50,000+ bid Park Ji-Sung a final farewell in the K-League All Star Game. After announcing retirement officially from professional football in May, Captain Park was part of a humorous and entertaining match in front of 50,000+ at Seoul World Cup stadium as his select squad including Lee Young-Pyo took on a K-League all star squad coached by Pohang Steelers Hwang Sun-Hong. Coaching team Ji-Sung Park was none other than Guus Hiddink, his KNT 2002 manager that first brought him and Lee Young-Pyo for the start of their European career at PSV Eindhoven. 

The match had a neat vaudeville atmosphere amidst a torrential downpour, with zany post goal celebrations including Kim Shin-Wook being reeled in as the prize catch fish, a Luis Suarez biting imitation, and a wedding bouquet being tossed in Park’s honor (he got married on Sunday -congrats!).  Other oddities, Park Ji-Sung after subbing out before half-time, then subbed back in the 2nd half – normally an impossible feat, but a 1 time exception was made. Besides, it was Ji-Sung’s party, so why not?  Park finally was able to deliver what everyone was waiting for, scoring in the 58th minute to equalize at 4-4. The game ended in a 6-6 draw, thus ends the storied career of one of the most prolific and celebrated Korean footballer…for now…

Want more on the All Star Game? Here’s the Korea Herald with a recap of the match. Match video highlights:

and if you want to see the full 90 minute+ fun spectacle:

The impact of Park Ji-Sung on Korean football can not be overstated. No one could have imagined back in 2000 when he started his pro career with Kyoto Purple Sanga in the 2nd division of the J-League that he would rise to become one of the most decorated Koreans on the global football stage, particularly with his 7 year stint at Manchester United. Undoubtedly we will not see the last of Park Ji-Sung.

….and now begins the speculation (if there isn’t already then the Tavern owner will gladly get the ball rolling) on whether Park will contribute to Korean football development, either at the K-League or with the national team via the KFA (youth or senior side, take your pick).  Or will he opt for the on-air TV commentary life?  [I’m keeping our fingers crossed he will pick the 1st option].

The FC Seoul / Bayer Leverkusen friendly is set in just a few hours for Wednesday night in Seoul 7 pm Korea Time / Wed morning 6 am US EST. [The physical Tavern in the US will have to open bloody early to tune in].  Not sure of TV broadcast rights, I can only say, if you don’t live in Korea, check the Tavern’s twitter…for an update of sorts. Nudge nudge, wink wink.

Son Heung-Min of course will be the marquee attraction for the match. Ryu Seung-Woo, while he did make the trip, will not participate due to an alleged headbut during a friendly on Sunday (in a game he scored earlier in). His red card suspension earned him a 3 game friendly ban. So Seoul will not get a chance to see Ryu in action for Leverkusen. Ay-gun-ah.

In the ‘not-sure-if-this-is-a-good-thing’ category, according to Bild, 86% of the tickets allocated as of last weekend have been bought by…wait for it…women. Bild claims that as of press time Saturday, out of 50,000 tickets sold, roughly 40,000 of them were snatched up by eujahs. Wait a tic, before I go to launching into tirades about where the namjahs are and what kinds of repercussions there are on Korean football culture based on that info, how did Bild even come to that conclusion?  The Tavern owner is a bit curious as to what their source is on this claim…beyond that, I’ll be looking doing my own gender based bean counting when the cameras are trained on the stands.

This will also be a strange reunion of sorts for Cha Du-Ri who had an unmemorable short spell at Bayer Leverkusen earlier in his career. Cha is now enjoying a late resurgence as a left back for FC Seoul.

K-League Classic of course was on all star break this past weekend, leaving the K-League Challenge on duty.

Meanwhile several Koreans based in Europe has been involved with preseason games in July. The Tavern’s newest contributor Takeuchi tabulated KPA’s in the Bundesliga preseason tallies in a post yesterday. Ki Sung-Yeung was involved in some neat buildup leading to Swansea’s 1st goal earlier today.

Journeyman forward Suk Hyun-Jun has re-emerged from a season toiling in the middle east and signed up for another go in the Portugese Liga, this time transferring to CD Nacional. He’s scored in preseason already for his new side, and scored on this free kick yesterday in a friendly with Alcenena. Take a look:


And onto Korean women’s football, Ji So-Yun has had an impressive season so far for Chelsea Ladies. She’s been on a bit of a scoring streak, and while she didn’t score yesterday against Bristol Academy, she was able to contribute brightly for her central London side. She started the build up that led to the first goal, then nearly got on board herself twice. Here’s a video highlight reel:

…I don’t want to get too ahead, I believe there’s a preview to be posted at the Tavern about the U20 Women’s World Cup taking place in Canada later in August. Also there’s a fascinating Kim Shin-Wook interview in which he confesses that Korea’s mandatory military conscription had previously prevented him from transferring to Europe, but the Asian Games may provide one last hope for military exemption (we’ll take a closer look at the interview contents later). But I leave you with one more interesting development unfolding. Amidst some criticism of the KFA before/during/after Brazil 2014, they are doing at least something right – utilizing their relatively new KFA TV Youtube channel to bring to light previously difficult to find games. There’s a wide range of stuff you can find there, from the WK League (the women’s equivalent to the K-League) to youth/academy games.

Here’s a recent match highlights between Incheon Red Angels and Jeonbuk KSPO (Incheon is tops in the table while Jeonbuk is dead last).

and here’s a recent elementary championship match. Some nice footwork on display by these kids.

Still here? Well I know just the diversion from football you’re looking for: the Guardian has a feature ‘blogger of the week,’ and last week was Korea’s turn to be in the spotlight. Collin Marshall wrote about his week’s urbanist tour of Korea and visited several areas including Busan, home of course to Tavern Studio Busan. Read about his insights about Busan and if your curiosity is piqued about what he calls a ‘look into the future of cities,’ links for his other adventures and observations from traveling around Korea in a week can be found there on the Guardian website. Tavern is closed for the night but will reopen in just a few hours for the FC Seoul / Bayer Levekusen friendly.  See you for some very early martinis and soju soon everyone.

About Roy Ghim 454 Articles
The old Tavern Owner


  1. Yes, I’ll be posting a preview of the U-20 WWC in the coming days, figured I’d take it on since I do live up here in Canada.

    As for all the women buying the tickets… somehow I wouldn’t be stunned if’s because of a certain Son Heung-Min, lol. Am I wrong?

  2. Interesting article on Busan. Gamcheon village is an interesting place to look around, and I’ve maintained that Busan very much has a “Korea” feel to it despite it’s size. Busan isn’t a great tourist place because there aren’t a whole lot of famous places here (besides Haeundae, BIFF, and Jagalchi), but it’s charm comes out when you live here. It’s much more relaxed then Seoul (my opinion of course), and generally open and friendly. Unfortunately the population is very much baseball oriented, and football is not that big, even the national team.

    Oh, and ladies may as well forget trying to catch Son HM since he’s dating Mina from Girls’ Day.

  3. I’m hoping 2 c sum marked improvement from Son this season. No more pinche 10-12 gl/2-4 assist seasons, I want 20/10+ from here on out baby! More individual assertion & virtuosity; consistency & threatening presence every game, no more disappearing acts for 2-3 game stretches.

    Son is now @ an age where truly great players seem to fully come into their own. I’m starting 2 get a bit paranoid that maybe Son might just b a “good” player, only a few skill degrees better than PJS but w/out his character & grit. A cog in the machine (admittedly a nice, shiny cog), but not the machine’s engine, a role he’s expected to occupy from here on out in SK. Would have 2 wait & c if Lee Seung Woo is the real futbol messiah =/

    Man, I guess SK in Brazil did a # on me, cuz I’m feeling pretty impatient & borderline-unreasonable now 🙁

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