“I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m just throwing myself into it and encouraging my juniors.”
The oldest (?) of the 12 professional soccer K League 1 clubs, excluding volunteers who have been given the role of playing coach, is Lee “Wheeze” Geun-ho (38, Daegu FC). After scoring a goal against Gwangju FC in the 23rd round, Lee laughed and told a reporter, “I thought this year would go by without scoring a single goal.”
It was a sideways way of saying that as he got older, he found it hard to make up for his declining speed. He is, of course, a mentor to the younger members of the squad, which is a huge asset to those with less experience.
Lee has played for many clubs, including Incheon United, Daegu, Ulsan Hyundai, Jeonbuk Hyundai, Jeju United, and Gangwon FC, not counting his time in overseas leagues. His transferability shows that he can still do it.
A similar case is Shin Kwang-hoon (36, Pohang Steelers). He started with the Pohang Steelers, then moved on to Jeonbuk Hyundai, FC Seoul, and Gangwon before returning to Pohang. Although he’s a side defender, he can also play in central midfield. Head coach Kim Ki-dong recognized the value of the veteran, saying that Shin’s experience is “something that money can’t buy.”
Daegu is in sixth place and Pohang is in second, even though the battle for the top spot is fierce. The veterans, who would have been called seniors in the past, emphasized that they are still able to compete with their juniors and will be judged on their skills, not their age.
Most of the veterans in most clubs are transfers. It’s much harder to find a full-fledged franchise star, let alone one who’s coming back from a stint abroad. Of course, there are exceptions. It’s Jeonbuk, a team that went from the bottom of the table to third place. Choi Chul-soon, 36, who is often referred to as “Choi Touji” or “Chal-soon,” is the star of the show.
Except for the time he spent playing for Sangju Commerce to fulfill his military service obligations, Choi is a Jeonbuk man through and through. He helped Jeonbuk win the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) in his first year with the club in 2006. Although he didn’t play in the final as a substitute for the U-19 national team, Choi was clearly involved in the process. He went on to help Jeonbuk win nine K League titles (2009, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021).
Although he is a flanker, Choi has also played as a central midfielder and a central defender. When injuries occurred, Choi was the first option, and she met 99% of her responsibilities. The 1% is because Choi insists that she is not satisfied.
Throughout the season, Choi has been bouncing back and forth between the first and second teams due to a gradual generational change. When fans demanded the resignation of coach Kim Sang-sik and rational management of the club, he asked for understanding and forgiveness as a representative of the players. In the process, he was misunderstood by some fans as “the club made me do it,” but Choi Chul-soon didn’t care. He had faith that the fans would recognize the sincerity of the franchise star.
It was difficult for Choi to secure a spot in the ‘left’ Kim Jin-soo and ‘right’ Kim Moon-hwan flanking system, but he never stopped preparing. He played B-team games and bought food for his juniors to show them the art of waiting. An official from Jeonbuk said, “I was very grateful for the way he didn’t care about the team situation and took care of the juniors. They said that they learned what desperation is from him.”
After Kim Jin-soo was injured in the A team and Kim Moon-hwan was transferred to Qatar’s Al Duhail, Choi Chul-soon has been utilized like a spanner in the works again. “I don’t care where I play, right or left. He is grateful to be able to play. When we met after the match, Choi said, “I’m just thankful to have the opportunity. At this age, what more can you ask for. It’s best to play when you’re given the time and encourage your juniors,” he said.
It is true that his speed and agility have decreased compared to the past, but his ability to wake up and encourage his teammates on the field has not. Choi loves Jeonbuk more than anyone else, so he doesn’t waste the opportunities and time he has left. In the 25th round against Incheon on June 6, he played the full game, sharing the left flank with Jung Woo-jae and contributing to a 2-0 victory.
Choi was given the gift of a five-year contract at the end of the 2017 season. The contract was partly in recognition of his contributions to the growth of Jeonbuk’s prestigious club. After the 2021 season, he was re-signed for two more years, ending this year. Previously, Jeonbuk used to re-sign players a year before their contracts expired to create a virtuous cycle, but after the influence of technical director Park Ji-sung on the organization, it seems that multi-year contracts for players over the age of 30 are becoming harder to come by.바카라
It is true that it is difficult to re-sign Choi to a multi-year contract based on simple capital logic, but when it comes to filling the so-called hole, Choi is the man of choice. It is ironic that Choi is getting a chance under Romanian coach Dan Petrescu. Once Ahn Hyun-beom transfers from Jeju United and adjusts to the new uniform, Choi’s position may change again, but her value is the same as Mukinji.
Even if he stays for a year or two, Choi Chul-soon needs to be sure. Of course, Choi Chul-soon must also have the wisdom to understand the situation of the club.
In an era where romance has disappeared, will Choi Chul-soon’s title as the only franchise star in K League 1 be maintained until the end?