With the start of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007 just
hours away, hosts Korea Republic continue to fine tune their
preparations in a bid to make a winning start against Peru. Park
Kyung Hoon's squad took part in a short, training-ground game
utilising half the pitch, but it more than satisfied their hordes
of expectant fans.
Particularly encouraging was a move that started at the feet of Yoon Bitgaram in midfield. The playmaker fed a delightful ball into the path of Jin Soo Choi, who, with a searing burst of pace, left his marker for dead before calmly lobbing the keeper. Simple yet effective, it was a good argument for the hosts' cause ahead of their imminent clash with Peru.
The midfielder has been handed the No10 jersey for the tournament with good reason, and his team's chances of winning a world title on home soil could well hinge on his performances. Like many others who have played with that emblematic number on their backs, his style and charisma have made him a hit with female fans, who eagerly follow his every move.
Ambitions and dreams
On the conclusion of the practice session, Jin Soo was happy to share his thoughts with FIFA.com. Confident yet unassuming, the 17-year-old says he does not feel much pressure having to deliver in front of millions of his compatriots. "A little bit maybe, but it's more joy and enthusiasm I feel. My goal for this tournament is to enjoy myself and for my team to triumph. That's what matters most."
As for his reputation for being the team's pin-up, Choi smiles at the suggestion but does not deny being something of a heartthrob. "It's not that big a thing really. I couldn't tell you if it's completely true or not," he says. "What is certain is that a lot of girls want my autograph, but that just drives me on to become a better player."
There was further evidence of his growing popularity back at the team hotel, where there were numerous girls hoping to get photos and autographs. And while all the squad were in demand, it was clear Jin Soo was their principal target. "He's very handsome," gushed one fan, "I wish he was my boyfriend."
While the attention is flattering, the player insists his
principal concerns are professional, and his goal is to follow in
the footsteps of his favourite player, Paul Scholes. "I've
always admired him, and he's always been my idol," admits
the midfielder. "One day I'd love to play for Manchester
United like him."
First though, the youngster needs to have a very good Korea 2007, something he is only too aware of. "Long term, I'd like to play at a World Cup with the senior team and also move to Europe, but that's not going to happen unless we perform well in this tournament. So we're very hopeful we can triumph here, both for ourselves and for our fans."
First up for the Koreans is Peru. Choi and his team-mates have been carefully studying the South Americans and look to have a plan in place to deal with their threat. "We've been given a lot of their videos by our staff, and we know that to beat them we need to control the tempo of the game, run hard from start to finish and, most importantly, attack down the flanks. That's how we'll get results."
With his speed, dribbling skills and shooting prowess, Jin Soo is capable of causing no end of headaches for opponents at Korea 2007 - and igniting just as much passion in the stands.