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Once ‘humiliated’, South Korea’s Park Set for Third World Cup

And now the 36-year-old South Korean forward — who played her first World Cup 20 years ago — told AFP that she has one more ambition in what will be her farewell to the tournament.

“I’ve never scored a goal at the World Cup and I’m training hard with the aim of scoring a goal,” Park said ahead of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand starting on Thursday.

“As I always say, I’m really working hard now thinking this is my last World Cup.”

Park’s long career has been marked by exceptional highs but also real lows.

Considered a child prodigy, she joined South Korea’s squad when she was a teenager and played in the 2003 World Cup.

By the time she was 19 she had scored 11 goals for her country.

There was domestic success too. In 2013 she was top scorer in the league with 19 goals, leading her team Seoul City Hall to second place.

But her goals prompted six rival coaches to threaten a league boycott and demand a gender test.

The claim was shut down when South Korea’s Human Rights Commission intervened, saying that the coaches’ actions amounted to sexual harassment.

Park Eun-seon speaking during an interview with AFP
Park Eun-seon speaking during an interview with AFP © Jung Yeon-je / AFP

“What happened is in the past and I don’t remember much of it now,” Park says, having described it at the time as “humiliating”.

She said in 2013 that she had undergone several eligibility tests in the past.

“I scored a lot (in 2013) because I was given a lot of chances as my teammates were exceptionally good at the time,” she says now of the scrutiny.

“There are coaches who have apologised since, and time has passed. I’m doing well now.”

‘Biggest honour’

There have been other ups and downs.

Park failed to score in either the 2003 or 2015 World Cups, then was out of the national squad for seven years. She thought her international career was over.

That was until Colin Bell became South Korea’s coach in 2019 and the Englishman made the surprise decision to recall her.

He calls Park “a game-changer”.

Park was one of South Korea’s best-known women footballers before the emergence of today’s biggest stars such as Ji So-yun.

But her career was first derailed by accusations she had leapfrogged to the professional league — she joined her team after high school — rather than playing for a university team, as was standard practice.

Park then took a two-year break from football in 2010 when her father died, but eventually returned to the game partly to honour his dreams for her career.

Despite everything that’s happened in the two decades since her international debut, football “is what I enjoy the most and what I’m best at”, she said.

“The World Cup is the best stage for any soccer player,” she added.

“If you get to go on the best stage, play games and even score goals, there would be no honour comparable to that.”

South Korea’s World Cup begins on July 25 against Colombia in a Group H that also includes Germany and Morocco.

Source : France24