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Gangnam not Park's style
Publication Date : 06-09-2012
There are many things Park Ji Sung can do on the football pitch but Gangnam Style is not one of them.
The Queens Park Rangers captain admits he is a fan of the quirky but wildly popular K-pop hit, but will not consider doing the dance as a goal celebration.
"Yeah, I know Gangnam Style. I like it," said the South Korean in a light-hearted moment during an exclusive phone interview with The Straits Times on September 5.
"It's great. I know that guy, he's my friend. Actually I can't dance, but I like their singing."
That has not stopped the fleet-footed midfielder from missing a beat in his meteoric climb.
His is a story of a Goheung County boy, rejected by Korean clubs and universities due to his small frame, who rose to become Asia's most-decorated footballer - a four-time English league winner and a European champion with Manchester United.
His is a story of survival, a word that litters his vocabulary. And it is his perseverance in this singular pursuit that has defined him as the tireless performer many have come to know as "Three-lung Park".
Said the 31-year-old: "I was eager to be a success in European football. I wanted to survive, to prove to myself that Asian players can play in Europe.
"When I survived, then everyone saw and changed their minds about Asian players in Europe.
"That was great for me, but when I started football here, I just thought about my own survival."
From mere survival, his boundless energy and high workrate made him a "big-game" player and a cult hero among Red Devils fans.
Some of his most memorable performances came during the road to their 2008 Champions League victory, when he displayed outstanding flank work and man-marking skills against Roma and Barcelona.
But for all his exploits on the field, Park believes that mental strength trumps all other attributes. It was his mental tenacity, fuelled by the drive to survive, that helped him through two of his lowest moments during his time at Old Trafford (2005-12).
The first was the injured right knee that put him out for nine months in 2007.
The second was the heartbreaking experience during the 2008 Champions League final, when the manager Alex Ferguson left him out of the team.
Recalled Park: "He spoke to me and he explained to me. I can understand it in my head, but my heart still hurts.
"But I had to think about my future and believe that I can still play."
He has since shrugged off the setbacks to become an inspiration to other Asians such as United's new signing, the Japanese Shinji Kagawa.
For Park, a new challenge with QPR awaits, as they aim to better their 17th position from last season. And he will surely be hoping to dance a jig at the end of this season - even if he may not be good at it.