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(Yonhap Interview) Veteran midfielder still learning after Japan experience

2017/01/06 06:01

SEOUL, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- With 93 caps for South Korea to her name, Cho So-hyun is considered an exemplary veteran for young players.

But the 28-year-old midfielder said there is still much more to learn after spending a season in Japan, one of the strongest countries in women's football that once claimed the FIFA Women's World Cup.

Cho played for Japan's INAC Kobe Leonessa in 2016 on loan from South Korean side Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels. Though INAC failed to win the league title, Cho helped the club capture the Empress's Cup.

From her style of play to off-field preparation, Cho said she learned a lot playing with INAC.

"In South Korea, we have quick, powerful players who also have good techniques," she said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Thursday. "In Japan, players emphasize passing. I learned what I should improve."

   Compared to South Korea, Cho also said the Japanese players were given much more freedom in managing their schedules and preparations for matches. The defensive midfielder added she was also impressed by INAC's hard-working veterans.

But what Cho really envied was Japan's solid infrastructure and popularity in women's football. She said some 16,000 visited INAC's season opener and at least 2,000 fans on average attended their home matches. In South Korea, average attendance for a women's football match is 600.

"You have to play your best because there are so many players (who can come up and take your spots)," she said. "South Korea lacks depth in players, so there's little motivation. We all have to work on producing good young players."

  

In this file photo taken on Feb. 29, 2016, South Korean midfielder Cho So-hyun takes a shot during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics Asian qualifying match against North Korea at Yanmar Stadium Nagai in Osaka, Japan. (Yonhap) In this file photo taken on Feb. 29, 2016, South Korean midfielder Cho So-hyun takes a shot during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics Asian qualifying match against North Korea at Yanmar Stadium Nagai in Osaka, Japan. (Yonhap)

During her stint at INAC, Cho said she met with Homare Sawa, a Japanese football icon who won the FIFA Women's Player of the Year in 2011.

Sawa played with INAC for five seasons before announcing her retirement in 2015.

"I was disappointed that I couldn't play with Sawa," Cho said. "But I want to become like Sawa, someone who can lead young players while also being the core of the team."

   Cho lamented that she couldn't spend more time with INAC as her loan deal came to an end. For the 2017 season, she will play for the Red Angels in South Korea.

"I wanted to stay one more year because I wanted to win the league championship," she said. "I also thought one year isn't enough to completely absorb what I learned in Japan."

   Cho, however, said she plans to go overseas in the near future. She will be a free agent after the 2017 season.

"I have to pave the way so that other young players can think about playing overseas," she said. "I want to motivate them."

   Cho said she is thinking of playing in France, Germany or Britain, adding that she wants to learn English. She admitted that going overseas won't be easy.

"I'm not that young, so that's why I try to leave as early as I can," she said. "Some players at INAC went to the United States and Australia even in their 30s. By watching them, I felt that I could go overseas, too."

  

South Korean football player Cho So-hyun speaks in an interview with Yonhap News Agency in Seoul on Jan. 5, 2016. (Yonhap) South Korean football player Cho So-hyun speaks in an interview with Yonhap News Agency in Seoul on Jan. 5, 2016. (Yonhap)

As a veteran, Cho said she wants to further serve the country. She captained South Korea at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup where the country reached the round of 16 for the first time.

Cho said she is thinking of competing until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"If you think too much about your age, you feel stressed, so I just want to think about maintaining my health," she said. "When head coach Yoon Duk-yeo took charge of the national team (in 2013), he brought in a new generation of players, so existing players suddenly became veterans. But based on my personal experience, I think it will be better for us to have more experienced players on our squad."

   kdon@yna.co.kr

(END)

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