Old Trafford star Park chooses DMU to learn about the business of football

Former Manchester United star Park Ji-sung is among the dozens of new students starting a world-renowned sports management course at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

The retired midfielder is a national icon in his home country of South Korea, having captained his country side at the 2010 World Cup and collected both Premier League and Champions League winners' medals during his time at Old Trafford.

Park main (2)

But despite his success as a player, the 35-year-old said he wanted to help improve his knowledge of football 'around the pitch' by working with academics from DMU's International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC) on the prestigious International MA in Management, Law, and Humanities of Sport, run by the Swiss Centre International d'Etude du Sport (CIES) and delivered by DMU.

The course was last year named as Europe's best sports management course and the year before that claimed top spot in SportBusiness International's world rankings.

But Park, who played for Manchester United between 2005 and 2012, said it was a personal recommendation which persuaded him to enrol.

He said: "One of my colleagues said it had been a great experience and though many players go into coaching or management, I wanted to improve my knowledge of football around the pitch and then perhaps work in the South Korean football league.

He said he had not been to Leicester before, with Leicester City being in the Championship during his time at United. But he, along with the other students were set to watch City's cup match against Chelsea at the King Power Stadium and he said he was excited to see the side.

Park said: "What happened to Leicester City was amazing and showed the way football can bring hope to people.

"Playing in the Champions League is a great experience and may even spur Leicester to play at a higher level.

"Of my own career I have many happy memories but perhaps it the 2010/11 season, where United broke the record for number of title wins, was the best. I was very satisfied with my performance that year."

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The year-long course operates in three stages across Europe, with the first three months in Leicester followed by similar length spells hosted by SDA Bocconi, in Milan then the University of Neuchatel, in Switzerland. This pan-European aspect of the course is cited by Professor Martin Polley, Director of the ICSHC, as one of the key reasons for its success.

It attracts people from around the world and this year, 31 new students from places including Korea, Russia, Australia, Japan and China - among others - are taking part.

 Park main (1)

Daria Smirnova, a former Russian sports journalist, had entered the course to gain more experience and knowledge about events management.

She said: "I had worked as an organiser for the Sochi Olympic games and went also to Rio this summer, which was intense. I had found some limitations working in the media and this course has such a strong reputation."

Ya Gao, from China, said she had worked all hours of the day to get enough money and experience to win her place on the sought-after course.

She said: "Someone I knew had taken the course and said it was an unforgettable experience. I want to be part of the football revolution in China - it is a rising power in world football and this course gives you a whole range of experience to be part of sport."

Shoko Tsuji was tempted to enrol on the course after a professor at her Tokyo university studied at DMU and praised the experience.

The journalist - who has worked in Madrid covering La Liga - said she has first visited DMU in 2009, while she was considering taking part in the MA.

She said: "Back then, Leicester felt like a rugby city, there was no real sense of enthusiasm for football. But now, after the win, it is so different here, with all the flags and graffiti.

"I want to move into more of administrative role, particularly because I want to be part of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo."

Posted on Wednesday 21 September 2016

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