Jeju United’s Jeong-woon (34) gave a thumbs up to the level of the K-League.
Jeongwoon overcame his difficult professional career with his own strength. He joined Ulsan Hyundai in 2012, but did not play a single game. As soon as he achieved his professional dream, a crisis struck.
“Actually, it was too late at that time, so I couldn’t even go to the lower leagues in Korea. He asked a friend who had been tested on the Eastern European side to introduce a local agent. He didn’t consider league level or anything like that and he just left looking for a place where he could play football.”
Location, league level, style, etc. were all taken a backseat. All he thought was that he should play football. Jeongwoon was so desperate. The place I arrived at was NK Istra in Croatia. It was not easy for a player who had not established himself in the K-League to compete on the European stage.
“The hardest thing was the struggle. Basically, the physical condition of an Eastern European player is good, and the strength is very good. At the time, the Croatian league had a large gap between the top and bottom teams. Our team was in the middle, so once I got used to it, I really liked playing soccer.”
Jeongwoon quickly melted into the team. He played in 12 games in his first season and fulfilled his dream of becoming a real professional player. He gradually expanded his influence. In his second season, he made 30 appearances, including 26 league appearances. As he was rated as one of the best players in the league, he also attracted attention from other teams. During the 2014-15 season, he also moved the team to RNK Split. The Croatian Football Association also showed interest in Jung-woon. It is a well-known naturalization proposal.
“It is true that the Croatian Football Association reviewed naturalization. I put the Austrian player and myself in the final shortlist. Local newspapers also covered it a lot. As a result, the association chose an Austrian player. I was contacted personally, but I did not talk about the naturalization decision.”
In the winter of 2016, Jeongwoon returned to the K-League and organized his Croatian life. Since then, the Croatia national team has made a mark in world football. He reached the semifinals in two consecutive tournaments, including runner-up at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and third at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. It is currently ranked 7th in the FIFA rankings. How did he view the progress of the Croatia national team?ㅋㅋㅋ벳
“Anyway, there are things that feel different from other countries, but on the other hand, I feel that there are so many good players in Korea. He’s played for Croatia, but he’s really on par except for the star players who stand out. If you experience the K-League, there are many players who are really good. However, due to its geographical characteristics, it does not get many opportunities compared to Europe. Knowing that Korean players are really good, this is unfortunate.”
The faces of the players who have been through the Croatian league with Jungwoon are also gorgeous. He listed the names of the players in question and once again emphasized the Korean player’s skills.
“Amir Rahmani (29), who now plays next to Kim Min-jae (27, Naples), was a teammate that fans would know best. In addition, Andrei Kramaric (32, Hoffenheim), Mario Pasalich (28, Atalanta), and Nikola Blasic (26, Torino) also played at the same time. Seeing that the players who did well when I was playing are now the main players of the national team, I feel again that ‘there are so many good players in Korea’.”