Football fans from around the globe can now hear about the blossoming new career of a former Manchester United captain, in an exclusive interview filmed at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).
Park Ji-Sung graced the Old Trafford turf for seven years of his career, but has more recently walked the streets of Leicester, studying the first part of a degree in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport MA.
In the interview, filmed by international production company Premier League Productions, the 35-year-old spoke about his life after football, his move to one of the world’s most famous clubs, his two Champions League victories and highlights some of the greatest players he shared the field with.
It will be broadcast tonight (Thursday) at 6pm, on Sky Sports 1.
Park came to DMU in September last year, spending the first four months of his course in Leicester, getting involved with campus life and playing matches with his course mates against other university teams.
He finished at DMU in December and is now completing his studies at two other partner organisations; SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan (Italy) and the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland).
Park who retired in 2014, said: “I decided to do this one year course to enhance my sporting knowledge. A lot of former players want to go into coaching, but I chose to study because I don’t want to be a coach.
“I aim to develop my knowledge so I can go on to work in a football structure, increasing my knowledge of management, marketing and law.
“Everyone on the course comes from different backgrounds, which is great as we can share our experiences and learn from each other. Everyone at DMU has been very welcoming.”
Park had a football career spanning over 14 years, half of which was spent at Old Trafford following a switch from Dutch Eredivisie side PSV Eindhoven in 2005 for £4 million.
“I got a call from Sir Alex Ferguson asking if I wanted to make the move to Manchester United,” said Park.
“It was a huge surprise and a big move for me. I had a chat with Guus Hiddink (PSV manager at the time) and he said it was my decision.
“I was sad to leave, but I wanted to test myself in Manchester. It was such a huge opportunity for me as a player to play at such a big club.”
Park made 204 appearances during his seven-year spell in Manchester, scoring 28 goals. He also captained his country South Korea, making 100 appearances and scoring 13 times.
In the 2002 World Cup, he was part of host nation South Korea’s squad which was the first Asian team to reach the semi-finals of the competition.
He scored against Portugal as South Korea progressed through the group stages, and he also scored in the 5-3 penalty shootout win against Spain to reach the semi. The side were defeated 1-0 by Germany to prevent them a place in the final.
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Park said: “I was happiest in my career at the 2002 World Cup. It was my dream growing up to represent my country and it happened so early in my career.
“It was an honour to play for the national team and to play at a World Cup in front of a home crowd.
“The reaction and atmosphere from the fans was unbelievable and it was great to experience how football changes the world.”
During his career, he played with some of the world’s greats, but three he picks out as the greatest are 2016 Ballon d’Or winner; Cristiano Ronaldo alongside fellow Manchester United midfielders; Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.
Speaking about Ronaldo, Park, said: “Cristiano was extremely talented and had a great ability we all admired. He’s since moved to Real Madrid and he just continues to improve.
“He had the right attitude to training and matches. He’s incredible.”
Another of the world’s greats, former AC Milan midfielder and Italy captain, Andre Pirlo said in his recent autobiography: ‘I Think Therefore I Play’, that Park is a ‘nuclear powerhouse’.
Maybe, that’s the reason why Sir Alex Ferguson regularly relied on Park in the big fixtures in the Champions League and during Park’s four Premier League title winning campaigns.
Park said: “I think my stamina and strength came from when I was a young. I always used to think what my strengths were compared to other players and continued to work on them.”
Park ended his career with a short spell back at PSV Eindhoven, following a £2 million switch to Queens Park Rangers, where he was Club Captain playing 25 times.
Park said: “It was a difficult move for me to leave Old Trafford for QPR, but had to make the decision based on lack of first-term opportunities. I knew my career was coming to end due to injuries and I knew opportunities weren’t going to be as regular.
“Over seven years I did everything for the club and it wasn’t easy to decide to leave. It was an honour to be given the club captaincy at QPR and I learned a lot from the experience.
“Following the spell at QPR, I finally retired due to a recurring problem in my knee. I had two operations and after time away, I couldn’t seem to get fit again, so I made the decision to announce my retirement having had a happy career.”
Posted on Thursday 12th January 2017