“Honestly, even I wasn’t sure.”
The spring breeze that started in Jeju has now evolved into a powerful typhoon that threatens the lead. The miraculous rebound and amazing performance of Jeju United in the professional soccer K League 1 this season is amazing to see again. Currently, after 13 rounds, Jeju has recorded 7 wins, 2 draws and 4 losses with 23 points, marking the 3rd place in the league alone. 2nd place FC Seoul and the points, as well as win-draw-loss, are the same. It is only behind by multiple points. It is a ranking created by winning 5 consecutive victories since the match against Gwangju in the 9th round on April 26th.
Let’s turn the clock back to the end of round 5, a month and a half ago. Looking at Jeju at this time, no one could have imagined the current ranking. At that time, Jeju had only a draw (2 draws and 3 losses) until the 5th round and fell to the bottom of the league. It was the worst crisis ever. Few believed that Jeju could rise again.
Even director Nam Ki-il said he was not sure. He once asked manager Nam, ‘Did he believe that he would be able to get back up when he finished bottom in early April’. Director Nam hesitated for a moment and then confessed his true feelings. “Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could do that either. There were so many bad situations. It was a difficult time even for team training because there were so many injured players,” he said.
The worst crisis that even the director spent in anxiety. However, Jeju finally endured this time. It wasn’t just about enduring, but rather, it was an opportunity for development that brought the team to the next level. What is the driving force that made this possible? Members of Jeju, including director Nam, singled out ‘communication and trust’ as the most core strength.
And in one voice, he mentioned the role of Koo Ja-cheol as the starting point of such ‘communication and trust’. Director Nam especially thanked Koo Ja-cheol. He said, “When I was having a hard time at the beginning of the season, the captains, including Koo Ja-cheol, gave me great strength. They communicated a lot with the players and led the team as one.” 안전놀이터
Koo Ja-cheol is playing the role that Jeju wanted in just two years. Early last year, Jeju suddenly succeeded in recruiting franchise legend Koo Ja-cheol. Although his stamina and skills were evaluated as inferior compared to his prime, Jeju expected ‘something more than his skills’ from Koo Ja-cheol. He hoped that he would become the focal point for the players with his affection for the team and strong sense of responsibility.
Last year, I couldn’t live up to those expectations due to injuries. This is because he only played 7 league games due to injury. It was difficult to do my part because I had to spend time on rehabilitation and recovery. However, this year, ‘Healthy Ja-Cheol Koo’ wears the team captain’s armband and plays the role of a strong locker room leader. He also improved his performance. He has already played 11 games, and although he has not scored yet, he has recorded 1 assist and is clearly playing a part in Jeju’s rise. Coach Nam said, “I’ve already been through a crisis once, so I don’t think I’ll be greatly shaken even if another ordeal comes. Above all, the players have become one around a strong captain,” and gave his trust to the captains led by Ja-cheol Koo.