Park Eun-seon (Seoul City Hall) repeated the words “I was lucky” and “It was fun” several times throughout the interview. It was a word that explained the current state of veteran striker Park Eun-seon. She joined the Korean women’s soccer team after seven years at the call of coach Colin Bell last year. It was only natural that she was interested in his ‘climbing’. She was selected for the national team at the age of 17 and was expected to be a ‘genius striker’, but she was unable to show off her skills and wandered for a long time. After 2015, she had no ties to the national team.스포츠토토
However, in April, in two evaluation matches against Zambia, he showed a post-play that even the opponent coach admired with his height of 182 cm and speed. She changed the flow of the game and drove the ball with her excellent ball competition and power. Stable chemistry with Kim Hye-ri (Hyundai Steel) and Lee Geum-min (Brighton) led to scoring. The giant cannon on the soccer field, Park Eun-seon, flew around. Soccer fans cheered for the active striker, whose absence in the national team has been overshadowed. He played over 130 minutes over two matches, scoring three goals and providing two assists. The two pre-test scores were 5-2 and 5-0. It was a big win. Coach Colin Bell expressed his belief in Park Eun-seon, the ‘trump card’, saying, “I want to take care of her like a flower in a greenhouse and take her to the World Cup.”
On May 13, when the women’s soccer WK League was in full swing, I met Park Eun-seon at a park near the Seoul City Hall team’s accommodation in Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul. After the evaluation match, media interviews increased, but his answers were slow and cautious. It was a habit to chew and speak for a long time. “Be careful. It always seems like that. It is also because I want to give a good answer.” There were many checks on Park Eun-seon’s outstanding skills. It was the cautiousness that was ingrained in his body. He explained the meaning of the phrase ‘I want to answer better’, saying that recently, he has been feeling a lot of gratitude for every word he said through people around him.
These were the words that came up when asked if it was awkward to be called a ‘national team veteran’ at the age of 37 this year. “Our team (Seoul City Hall) Manager Yoo Young-sil and the coaches don’t like the word veteran. Instead, they call me ‘veteran’. I, who listened to it, and my colleagues who listened next to me felt the difference and meaning of the words. The director always pays attention to details.”
He first met with coach Yoo Young-sil of Seoul City Hall during the 2003 U.S. Women’s World Cup as the captain and the youngest. From then on, she was the older sister she could lean on ‘to give her a word to say when times were tough’. Ahn Tae-hwa, who was the coach of the Seoul City Hall, is also a strong supporter of Changnyeong WFC. “When I was selected for the national team and when I scored a goal, they liked and praised me more than I did. I was going to retire before coming to Seoul City Hall in 2020. There were a lot of words around and I was exhausted. However, the two of them watched over me saying, “It will get better” and “I can do it.” Thanks to that, I was able to join the national team. I am a lucky man.”
There are glory and joy in his past. At the same time, there is also wandering and anxiety. All of them are ‘own’ times that made Park Eun-sun now. In June 2003, Park Eun-seon made his A-match debut at the age of 17, the youngest ever in both men’s and women’s football. It was the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Women’s Asian Cup match against Hong Kong, which qualified for the US World Cup. In that game, Park Eun-seon scored 4 goals and led the team to an 8-0 victory. The same year she competed in the Women’s World Cup in the USA, and the following year in 2004 she competed in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. In particular, she won the Asian Women’s Youth Championship, where she defeated China with a hat-trick, in which she was named the best player and top scorer (8 goals). In 2005 she competed in the East Asian Cup and won her first trophy in Korea.
However, 2005, when the status of Korean women’s football was being raised on the international stage, was also a year that left him with trials. Ahead of his high school graduation, offers from unemployment teams and colleges flooded in. Park Eun-seon chose Seoul City Hall, a new club with a high school gift. However, someone raised an objection that it violated the rules of the Women’s Football Federation, which states that ‘you can go to the unemployment team only after graduating from high school and going through two years of college’. It was a dust-covered rule that even the leaders who offered him to join did not remember. In the end, Park Eun-seon received a severe punishment of not being able to participate in the competition hosted by the federation for two years. He took the pitch when he was sure he could play well. He was remorseful and was punished for leaving the team. There was a time when he left the field without belonging to any team. Then, in 2013, he returned to the Seoul City Hall as ‘Poongwoon Goalkeeper’ and scored 19 goals in 22 appearances in the WK League, becoming the top scorer. He led the team to runner-up in the championship match, proving that he was ‘Park Eun-sun’.
Standing out, he was attacked again. In November of that year, the coaches of the WK League, excluding the Seoul City Hall, demanded a gender diagnosis of Park Eun-seon from the Korea Women’s Football Federation, saying, “If the gender is not determined, we will boycott next season.” Their ‘collective determination’ towards a player who participated in international competitions as a national team received strong criticism from soccer fans and public opinion. They tried to avoid the issue with the excuse of “said in a private place,” but they could not cover up the human rights violations toward Park Eun-seon. Most of all, it was hard to ‘try to kill the leaders who were good at laughing’ (Park Eun-seon’s post on social media at the time). The National Human Rights Commission of Korea judged the coaches’ actions as sexual harassment, and made recommendations to the Women’s Football Federation and the Football Association to take disciplinary action. Afterwards, Park Eun-sun made a rare move during the season by transferring to Rosyanka WFC in Russia. It was a decision he made to challenge on a bigger stage, but it was also a transfer that left many people ‘sorry for not being able to protect him’.
How to play football well for veterans
Even after passing through those days, Park Eun-sun did not let go of soccer. It’s the same reason he plays soccer now, even then since he started playing soccer when he was the 2nd one. Because it’s fun. He said, “He has been playing football for over 20 years, but it is still difficult for me to do enough to feel myself lacking. But that’s fun. That there are still things I can do and there are still things to learn is the reason I still play soccer.”
The things she learned through her body as an athlete became Park Eun-seon’s attitude towards life. He said, “There is nothing to feel frustrated about not being able to do as much as I tried. If not, he just has to carry on. When I was young, I did a lot of repetition of the same exercise 1000 times for basic training. It’s so hard to do at first. However, once he can do 1000, he will be able to do 10,000 before he knows it. Maybe it’s because I learned these things when I was young, but even when I’m older, there are things I can do. That’s why I don’t think about something for a long time or get stuck in the past. Today’s and tomorrow’s goals are important.” Even if he was out of breath, he believed without a doubt that the time would come when he could get over that hurdle.
Park Eun-seon, who is preparing for the Australia-New Zealand Women’s World Cup, which will be held on July 20th while playing for her team, feels that the number of female spectators visiting the WK League is increasing. An increasing number of female futsal (simplified soccer) players are making their playground their own space, improving their mobility, and learning the ‘goal taste’. Park Eun-seon, a ‘female’ and ‘athlete’ who has trained her body by kicking and running for a long time, said that she was happy with the change. The words of support were plain. “There is no need to feel intimidated by not doing well from the start. If we can do it well at once, why would there be people like us (laughs). It gets more and more fun when the ball starts to stick to your feet. Football is still difficult for me too, but the fun outweighs the hard work. Challenge yourself. And I hope you continue.”
Can Park Eun-sun score her first World Cup goal this summer? To this question he will answer: “If you keep going, it will eventually happen.” That’s the veteran’s answer.