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Park Ji-sung, one of the most well known and beloved soccer players in Korea, is now looking forward to his seventh season at one of the world's most renowned clubs, Manchester United. At the beginning of the year, he retired from the Korean national team stating that he wanted to give more chances to the junior and younger players in Korea. Since then, he has been fully devoted to his team, Manchester United. The Hanyang Journal was lucky enough to meet him at the Carrington Training Ground in Manchester.
Q. How do you feel after retiring from the Korean national team?
A. I do not feel anything right now. It does not seem real. However, I will come to feel it in my heart that I retired from the national team as time goes by. While other players who are still playing for their national teams go and play with their national team mates during the A Match period, I will be staying in Manchester and train as a member of Manchester United.
Q. How did you feel when you first watched the game without you and Lee Young-pyo?
A. I actually was not able to see them playing live. I only saw the results. However they are doing well so far, and I have always believed that they can do well without me. I still do.
Q. Was there anything that particularly bothered you while playing for the national team?
A. No, there was not a single thing that bothered me. In fact, I have always felt honored to play in the national team. I had always dreamed of becoming a member of the national team and since I have fulfilled that dream, I really liked playing for the national team and wearing the national team's uniforms.
Q. While you were in charge of the national team as captain, what was going through your mind?
A. I did not have anything in mind particularly; I just acted the same way I did before I became captain. If there was something that I had in mind, it would be the communication between the players and the coaching staff. (One of the things that Park did as a captain was to give schedules earlier. Before Park took care of this, the Korean national teams had daily schedules and it was a little difficult for the players to manage their daily conditions. After Park spoke to the coaching staff, they had planned the schedules earlier. It made managing body conditions became much easier for the players.)
Q. If you could be a non-celebrity for just one day, what would you do?
A. I would definitely do the things what ordinary people do every day, which I cannot do now. Things like walking around the streets, going through a large crowd, shopping at crowded places, eating what people normally eat. When I visit Korea and meet my friends, I sometimes go out on the streets to spend time with them. However, we cannot spend time fully to ourselves because there are people who stare at and whisper about us. Because of this, I try not to go out on streets when I stay in Korea.
Q. What do you envy about ordinary university students?
A. I actually envy their life itself. For me, I did not really have university life. It was at the time I just started university that I was chosen to play on the Olympic national squad. I had expected to do what university students do like going on blind dates when I first entered university. However I did not have time and none of my seniors set up blind dates for me, so I never got the chance to go on one.
Q. If you could pick the most impressive moment of your boring university life, when would it be?
A. It would be the time I went to membership training. I had only one chance to go, but it was really fun, and it sure is a precious memory for me.
Q. What would you have become if you had not become a soccer player?
A. I would probably have become a baseball player. When I was young I played baseball a lot, and I went to the baseball stadium a lot too. I actually had the chance to become one as well.
Q. What was it like when you first heard that Manchester United wanted you?
A. I just could not believe it at first. I did not understand why they wanted me. However when I found out that it was true that they wanted me, I was really happy. I mean literally happy. As Manchester United is one of the best clubs in the world, I was really happy - both as a man and as a soccer player.
Q. How about the other big clubs that are known to have offered you a contract? Are the rumors true?
A. Well, they may have and may have not, but few of them are true.
Q. What is a soccer player? daily schedule like?
A. All teams have different schedules so I cannot say how they do it in one word. However for our team, we train in the morning and rest in the afternoons. On match days, we have matches in the afternoons.
Q. You said you rest in the afternoons. What do you usually do in the afternoons in England?
A. Normally I stay home. I also study English, read books, watch TV, and spend time just like that.
Q. Don't you feel bored when you stay home all the time?
A. I used to feel bored when I was young, but now that I have got used to it, I do not feel that way anymore.
Q. Do you have any space left for visas in your passport?
A. I actually ran out of space a short time ago, so I had to attach some more papers to the back of it.
Q. Do you think there is a difference between Park Ji-sung the soccer player and Park Ji-sung the person?
A. I do not think there is a difference between the two. I show myself fully on the ground and that is what I am in my real life. That is me.
Q. What was the purpose of the JSFC?
A. The purpose of it was to spread what I have learned in Europe in means of their soccer learning system. If many children are given a chance to get near a soccer, they will eventually begin to like soccer. Although they might not all end up as soccer players, they will surely become fans. In that way, I could maybe contribute a little to diversifying and increasing the number of soccer fans in Korea.
Q. You are having a charity match in Vietnam this month. Are you doing this for the same reason you established the JSFC?
A. It may be similar, but the true reason is that I wanted to give back the love and the support that I got from the fans all over the world. As I was thinking about that, I met good people whom I can work with at the right time so I decided to try it for the first time this year. If it goes alright this year, I may be planning for a second and third one in the future.
Q. Are you planning to have a charity match in Korea as well?
A. Actually, I do not have any plans for Korea yet. There is already a famous charity match held by Hong Myung-bo and I do not want to have another charity match when there already is one.
Q. These days, there are many university students who do not have a goal in their life. They just live the way it goes, just like the way water flows. What would you say to those students?
A. Guessing by the social conditions and other factors, I understand that there may be some people that feel as if they do not have a goal. However, they must have a dream. They just have not found what they are good at or what they like yet. If they spend more time on finding out what they like and what they have talent in, I am sure they will set their goals soon.
Q. Do you have anything else to say to Hanyangians?
A. I do not know HYU well, but I know it is a good university located in the capital area of Korea. If Hanyangians feel grateful and take pride in studying and graduating from HYU, they would surely do well in their future careers and eventually do something good for the nation too.