South Korean soccer star Park Ji-Sung is the first Asian player to win the coveted Champions League title in Europe.
Born on February 25, 1981, in Goheung, South Korea, Park Ji-Sung began his professional soccer career in Japan. After leading South Korea to a fourth-place finish at the 2002 World Cup, he became one of Europe's first Asian stars with the Dutch club PSV Eindhoven. His succcess continued with England's Manchester United, where he became the first Asian member of a Champions League-winning team.
Soccer player Park Ji-Sung was born on February 25, 1981, in Goheung, South Korea, and grew up in the city of Suwon. A talented but small youth soccer player, he drank boiled frog juice and deer blood with the belief it would help him grow bigger. After high school, he enrolled at South Korea's Myongji University.
Early Pro Soccer Career
Park attracted more attention while playing for Myongji. He made his national team debut in April 2000, and signed his first pro contract with the Kyoto Purple Sanga of Japan that June. His presence helped Kyoto claim the J. League Division 2 title in 2001, and he was named MVP of the 2002 Emperor's Cup.
Park's international profile soared during the 2002 FIFA World Cup. He scored the lone goal in a thrilling victory over Portugal to propel South Korea to the knockout stage for the first time in history, sparking an impressive run that ended with a fourth-place finish.
Breaking Eurpoean Barriers
After the World Cup success, Park and teammate Lee Young-Pyo went to play for South Korean national team coach Guus Hiddink's PSV Eindhoven club in the Netherlands. Although Park's European career started slowly due to injuries, he became a fan favorite with his superb all-around play and shaggy head of hair. With Park anchoring the midfield, PSV won a pair of league titles and a KNVB Cup from 2002-05.
After moving to England in 2005 to join legendary manager Alex Ferguson's Manchester United club, the South Korean again had to face skeptics who considered his signing to be a marketing ploy. But Park proved to be the real deal by helping United win three consecutive Premier League titles and four in a five-year span. He became the first Asian to play in a Champions League final and the first to hoist the trophy, his performance winning over the fans who now called him "Three Lung Park" for his renowned fitness.
In the meantime, Park continued to star for his national team, becoming the first Asian to score in three consecutive World Cups. After making his 100th appearance for South Korea during the Asian Cup in January 2011, he announced his retirement from international play.
Park signed with the Queens Park Rangers in 2012, but it was a disaster of a season for the Hoops, who wound up relegated to the second division. Loaned to PSV Eindhoven for 2013, Park hoped to rekindle some late-career magic with the club that helped make him a European star.