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Football icon Park Ji-sung named honorary ambassador for PyeongChang 2018

2017/08/04 15:18

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Aug. 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korean football legend Park Ji-sung, the latest honorary ambassador for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games, said Friday he has high expectations for the first-time host in many different sports.

Park, former national football team captain, was named a goodwill spokesman for South Korea's first Winter Olympics in a ceremony held in Seoul.

Park was one of South Korea's most iconic football stars until his retirement in 2014. He served as the national team captain and represented the country at three FIFA World Cups, scoring at least a goal in each of the three tournaments. He won 100 caps for South Korea, one of nine South Koreans in the century club. Park is also the first South Korean to play in the English Premier League (EPL).

Park said he understands the role of a major sporting event in galvanizing an entire nation, as he had the first-hand experience at the 2002 FIFA World Cup that South Korea co-hosted with Japan.

"I am glad to have this opportunity to contribute to PyeongChang's efforts," Park said. "I am grateful for the opportunity to return the love and support I received as an athlete."

   Among Winter Olympic sports, Park said he has most closely followed short track speed skating, South Korea's traditional gold mine. South Korea leads all nations with 21 gold medals and 42 medals overall.

Retired football player Park Ji-sung (L) holds up an enlarged business card as an honorary ambassador for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, alongside Lee Hee-beom, head of PyeongChang's Olympic organizing committee, during his appointment ceremony in Seoul on Aug. 4, 2017. (Yonhap) Retired football player Park Ji-sung (L) holds up an enlarged business card as an honorary ambassador for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, alongside Lee Hee-beom, head of PyeongChang's Olympic organizing committee, during his appointment ceremony in Seoul on Aug. 4, 2017. (Yonhap)

But Park noted South Koreans in other winter sports have made strides of late, and he is looking forward to watching many different events in PyeongChang.

"In figure skating, we have some young athletes coming up, and it'll be interesting to see how they do in PyeongChang," Park said. "The national hockey teams have done well of late, and our bobsleigh teams have been battling against the odds. Overall, I think we're doing better across all winter sports than in the past."

   Unheralded as a collegiate player in South Korea, Park made his professional debut with Kyoto Purple Sanga in Japan in 2000. He starred for the national team at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, co-hosted by South Korea and Japan, under head coach Guus Hiddink, who later signed Park for his Dutch club, PSV Eindhoven.

After three seasons in the Netherlands, Park joined Manchester United in 2005, becoming the first South Korean in the EPL. Park enjoyed his best years with the Red Devils, winning four EPL titles, the 2007-2008 UEFA Champions League and the 2008 FIFA Club World Cup.

Park later played with Queens Park Rangers in the EPL and then had his second tour of duty with PSV Eindhoven to finish out his career.

For his tireless work ethic, Park was dubbed "Three-Lung Park" during his heyday.

Park is the 12th active or former athlete to be named an honorary ambassador for PyeongChang, joining the likes of former Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na, two-time Olympic speed skating gold medalist Lee Sang-hwa, and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin.

PyeongChang 2018 will go on from Feb. 9 to 25.

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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