Ji So-yeon not smiling after 2 trophies: “My heart is heavy for the national team”

South Korean women’s soccer icon Ji So-yeon (32-Suwon FC) was not happy after winning the midfielder award and the assist award (6) at the 2023 Korea Women’s Football Federation awards ceremony at Olympic Parktel in Songpa-gu, Seoul on Thursday.

After accepting the first of her two trophies, the midfielder expressed her disappointment with the national team’s results this year and called on the entire women’s soccer community to get stronger, saying, “If the national team is to be strong, the WK League must be stronger.”

For a player who scored 69 goals in 154 A-match appearances, the most of any Korean women’s soccer player, 2023 was a year of regret.

At the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in the summer, where she was aiming for a best-ever round of 16 finish, she was knocked out in the group stage, and at the Asian Games in Hangzhou in September, where she was hoping to redeem herself, she was knocked out in the quarterfinals by North Korea.

She then failed to make it to the quarterfinals of the second Asian qualifying round for the Paris Olympics in October and November, ending the year without a spot at the Olympic Games.

Speaking after the ceremony, Ji So-yeon said, “I felt bad because I thought this was a really important year for women’s soccer. The attention we received from entertainment programs such as the ‘goal-scoring girls’ effect did not translate into results,” she said, adding, “It hurts that we spent such a big tournament like that.”

“Watching the recent Chelsea-Arsenal match in the English Women’s League, I could feel the gap between us and the world level widening,” he said. “The individual players need to work harder and improve their skills to get closer to the world stage. I said that in my acceptance speech because I want all women soccer players to feel responsible, not just the national team.”

“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be with the national team, but I want to retire with the juniors I’m with now and see them grow,” she said, adding, “I talked to coach Colin Bell in a meeting about finding motivation for each player, even though we don’t have a big competition next year.”

In addition to his motivation to help the younger players in the national team, Ji-So-yeon also cited stopping Incheon Hyundai Steel’s “dominance” in the WK League as a challenge.

In his acceptance speech, he said, “I didn’t get my revenge on HHI. I’m still angry when I think about the second game of the championship game,” he said, adding, “Next year, let’s fight together so that more teams can stand up to Hyundai Steel and dethrone them.”

Hyundai Steel is the undisputed champion of the WK League, having won a total of 11 consecutive titles until the 2023 season.

Ji-So-yeon’s Suwon FC almost ended Hyundai’s reign this year after finishing third in the regular season and advancing through the playoffs, taking the first leg 3-1 in the championship game. However, a 2-6 defeat in the second leg cost them the title.

“It’s natural for the team with the most investment and money to win, but when I came to the WK League, there was an atmosphere of thinking, ‘Of course Hyundai Steel will win,'” Ji So-yeon said, adding, “It’s actually a bit embarrassing for one team to win for 11 years.”

“I hope the players will be more competitive and play more aggressively when playing against Hyundai Steel and improve their skills,” he urged. 안전놀이터