In the world of professional sports, where ransom is one’s value, ‘one-club man’, who plays for only one team and retires, is becoming increasingly rare.
Choi Chul-soon (37) of Jeonbuk Hyundai in professional football is such a rare being. He joined in 2006 and has been playing for 18 years in Jeonbuk alone. He is a whopping 16 years, even excluding the days of military service. As he enters his late 30s, more 메이저놀이터 and more days are spent watching games outside the field, but Choi Cheol-soon, whom he met during training at the Jeonbuk Hyundai Clubhouse in Wanju, Jeonbuk on the 12th, is still burning with passion, saying, “I want to play.”
Although it is called a dynasty now, Jeonbuk was called the ‘victory vending machine’ of other teams from its founding in 1994 until the early 2000s. In 2005, when coach Choi Kang-hee took over, they changed and became a strong team.
Choi Cheol-soon, who joined Jeonbuk in 2006, is a living witness to the process of Jeonbuk being reborn as a K-League leading club from a low-ranking team. Choi Chul-soon said, “When I first came to this team, coach Choi promised to make me the best player. There is no coach like that, and now I am the only one left.” He laughed and said, “I have felt and experienced a lot of Jeonbuk’s victory DNA. As the number of years accumulated, I continued to think that I should instill these DNA in my juniors, so I think I have come this far.”
Before Choi Cheol-soon joined, Jeonbuk was a team that had won the Korea Football Association (FA) Cup three times. However, since 2006, he has lifted the championship trophy 13 times, including 9 league titles, 2 Asian Champions League (ACL) titles, and 2 FA Cup titles. Choi Chul-soon said, “Jeonbuk was not a team that kept winning from the beginning. However, while there are players who are good at kicking the ball, there are also players who support their teammates by bumping into opponents with their bodies. These things didn’t look out of place and blended well. That is Jeonbuk’s ‘winning mentality’,” he emphasized.
As for the best player in the history of Jeonbuk, Lee Dong-guk is definitely the first to be counted. However, Lee Dong-guk was not a Jeonbuk one-club man either. Choi Cheol-soon is ahead of him in terms of his winning record in Jeonbuk. This is why Jeonbuk fans have no choice but to consider Choi Chul-soon special. Choi Cheol-soon also said, “When I play on the playground, the cheering voices of the fans are a great strength. He is always grateful,” he stressed.
Cheol-soon Choi, now in her late 30s, is now spending the last years of her career as a player. The two-year contract renewal after the 2021 season ends at the end of this year. His playing time significantly decreased last season, and talk about the timing of his retirement is constantly coming out.
However, Cheol-soon Choi’s passion for football has not cooled down yet. Choi Chul-soon said, “Last season was a season in which he tried to be of great help to his team. As a veteran, he focused on the role of a helper on the outside,” he said. However, I still think that my role is clear. I believe I can go out and help when they need me. I want to play until at least 2025,” he said.
There is also a way to leave Jeonbuk and transfer to another team if you want to play longer. Choi Cheol-soon said, “I have a lot of desire to play (in the game),” but “But the people who protect me and care for me always say, ‘Finish in Jeonbuk.’ I came here because of those words, so now I am drawing a picture that is beautifully finished in Jeonbuk.” It is not easy to imagine Choi Chul-soon wearing a different uniform. The same goes for Jeonbuk fans.