In the 2023 season of professional soccer K League 1, which concluded on Wednesday, the battle to avoid the bottom of the table was more intense than ever.
The 10th and 12th places were not decided until two days after the final match of the Final B, so the ‘direct relegation’ teams were also identified at the last minute.
The shockwaves in the soccer world were considerable, as it was Suwon Samsung, a ‘master of tradition’ and a popular club.
When we met with Suwon’s 19-year-old striker Kim Joo-chan at Lotte Hotel World in Seoul on April 4, the day of the league awards ceremony to mark the end of an intense season, he still hadn’t gotten over the loss.
“As a member of the team, I was sorry. I’m also responsible, and I’m grateful that the fans told me I did a good job, but I feel very sorry for myself.”
Kim Joo-chan, a rookie born in 2004 who joined the team this year, was a ray of hope for Suwon, which was mired in the relegation zone.
He made a name for himself on May 24 when he scored his professional debut goal in a 1-0 win over Daegu FC in the round of 16 of the Korea Football Association (FA) Cup, and he also scored five goals in the league.
Notably, he was on target when Suwon beat leaders Ulsan Hyundai 3-1 on July 15 to break a nine-match winless streak and when they beat Gangwon FC 2-1 on July 22 for their first back-to-back wins of the season.
As Suwon never fully recovered from its slump and eventually accepted the consequences of finishing last and being relegated to the second tier, Kim was nominated for the season’s Young Player of the Year award, making him the only Suwon player to attend the ceremony as an individual nominee.
“Although the team’s result was not good at the end, I am personally satisfied and proud of myself for achieving such a result in my first year,” said Kim, adding, “I am grateful just to attend the awards ceremony.”
The five goals scored by the 19-year-old rookie striker are the most in the team this season, which symbolizes the situation of Suwon this year.
“I didn’t feel burdened by the fans’ high expectations, but if I was conscious of that, I wouldn’t be able to do what I can do, so I thought, ‘Let’s just do the best we can with the time we have,'” Kim said. “I thought, ‘Let’s play the kind of soccer I want to play, and I’m the main character in my life, so let’s not worry about external reactions.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a worse result than this in my career, and although it’s very difficult now, I think it will be a medicine for my soccer life once it passes,” he emphasized.
Kim also expressed his gratitude to acting coach Yi Ki-hoon, who he cited as a role model for his efforts as interim head coach when Suwon was struggling.
“I started playing soccer because of him, and I’ve grown my soccer life by watching him. As a senior and as a coach, I was very grateful for his words,” he said.
He said he wants to be remembered as a player who does things when the team needs him. “Next year, I want to win the battle with myself. I feel that I need to prepare well from the winter ahead of the second year,” he said, looking to the future. 안전놀이터