Ex-Man Utd. midfielder looking to entertain fans as match commentator during World Cup

May 16, 2018
Former South Korean football player Park Ji-sung, who will work as a commentator for local broadcaster SBS during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, poses for a photo at a press conference in Seoul on May 16, 2018. (Yonhap)

Former South Korean football player Park Ji-sung, who will work as a commentator for local broadcaster SBS during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, poses for a photo at a press conference in Seoul on May 16, 2018. (Yonhap)

Former South Korean football player Park Ji-sung (L) poses for a photo with SBS announcer Bae Sung-jae during a press conference in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Former South Korean football player Park Ji-sung (L) poses for a photo with SBS announcer Bae Sung-jae during a press conference in Seoul. (Yonhap)

By Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, May 16 (Yonhap) — Former Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung said Wednesday he is ready to entertain fans in his new job when football’s showpiece event kicks off next month.

Park played in three World Cups, and will now enjoy this year’s event as a commentator after he recently signed a deal with local broadcaster SBS. The 37-year-old, who hung up his boots in 2014, vowed to help football fans enjoy the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

“It feels awkward to meet people as a football commentator,” Park said in his press conference at SBS in Seoul. “The World Cup is a global festival and I want to enjoy it. I hope many South Korean fans can double their joy with my World Cup match commentaries.”

Park, who played in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups, said he decided to accept SBS’s offer since he thought it would be a good opportunity to share his football philosophy with fans after retirement.

“SBS approached me and said it will be a good present to fans if I can talk about what I think about football and view the sport providing match commentaries,” he said. “Since I decided not to pursue a coaching career, I thought this was a good opportunity to share my thoughts on football.”

Park will join other members of the 2002 South Korean national team in the booth for World Cup matches. Former Tottenham Hotspur and Borussia Dortmund left back Lee Young-pyo has been working with KBS, while former Perugia forward Ahn Jung-hwan has been analyzing matches for MBC.

Park said he doesn’t think about competition against Lee or Ahn, though he understands viewership is important for the broadcasting companies.

“I think this is actually a good opportunity for fans to enjoy various views on football,” he said. “Each of us had a different career and we all have different views on football. So, I think fans can now listen to match commentaries that fit their style.”

Park said he will not hesitate to criticize the South Korean players on the pitch if they make poor plays.

“I believe the players would understand it because it’s not personal,” he said. “I hope I don’t get to criticize our players much at this World Cup.”

Park will have no time to practice in live broadcasts since SBS doesn’t cover South Korea’s four World Cup tune-up matches before they enter Russia. He, however, said he isn’t worried because he has gone through many live interviews in his career.

“I did experience how things are going in live broadcasts because I worked as a match commentator for the UEFA Champions League final two years ago,” he said. “If I can practice more, I think I can do my job well.”

Park said his wife Kim Min-ji, former announcer at SBS, gave him some tips during rehearsals. Park and Kim tied the knot in July 2014.

“She told me that I should not end or start the sentence with ‘I think,’” he said. “I know I also use lot of “because” when I talk, but we’ll see whether my speaking habit can help me or not.”

Bae Sung-jae, who will partner Park in SBS’ World Cup broadcasts, said he believes Park will do a fine job in match commentating. Bae also introduced Kim to Park before the two got married.

“He’s been through many big moments, so Park really doesn’t look pressured when he commentates,” he said. “Park can be funnier in the broadcast than most people would think. I hope we can make some jokes during our broadcast when the situation allows.”

South Korea are with Germany, Sweden and Mexico in Group F at the World Cup. Park said he thinks South Korea have less than a 50-percent chance to reach the knockout stage, but he really hopes the national team makes it past the group stage.

“In my heart, I hope we can get one win, one draw and one loss,” he said. “It will be better if we can collect better results, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Park said South Korea’s opening match against Sweden is critical. South Korea and Sweden will go head-to-head in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, on June 18.

“We should collect three points against Sweden if we want to go to the round of 16,” he said. “We have small and quick players compared with the opponents, so it’s important how we utilize those players.”

As for South Korea’s second match against Mexico, Park said the South Korean players need to overcome the opponents’ high-pressing game. He said the defenders also need to be aware of his former Manchester United teammate Javier Hernandez, better known as “Chicharito.”

“Mexico use back three and play aggressive,” he said. “Chicharito knows how to finish and be in the right spot at the moment. All our defenders should watch this player.”

Park said Germany are at the different level compared with other opponents. He added that South Korea will have a very difficult game against the defending champions.

“Any of their 23 players can make a team that is stronger than us,” he said. “I hope Germany can collect two wins from their first two matches because then they might not do their best against us.”

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