Everyone has at least one obstacle in their life. But each person reacts to the challenges life throws at them differently. Some people, like Choi Jae-young, the soccer player who CAH met in September for an interview, are able to overcome a sorrowful past. Choi played in the U-17 World Cup, but due to a severe knee injury, he had to come back to Korea earlier than his teammates. After a long rehabilitation, Choi put his uniform back on, this time for Chung-Ang University football team. CAH met Choi on Chung-Ang University Anseong campus. A bit quiet, Choi has a courage in his eyes that is easy to see.
CAH: Hello, Jae-young Choi. Congratulations on your second consecutive win of the first and second year college football championship. Tell us how it feels to win the game.
Choi: Since I was a footballer in elementary school, I have experienced many wins. However, this is the first time I have won consecutive victories at a championship finals match, so that point makes this championship meaningful.
CAH: We wonder how the situation went and what you thought about when you scored the first goal in the final match, keeping the middle area of the Chung-Ang University team.
Choi: Our team, the Chung-ang football team, has a distinctive strategy for the corner chance. More specifically, three players stand on offense, and one player stands near the goal post for a sudden situation. I was the player near the goal post. In the final match, the ball was delivered to my head and I scored.
CAH: University Football League is known for having a more severe game schedule than the professional league. How did you handle it? Please let us know if there are any tips for managing physical condition.
Choi: After we rest one day, we have to run in the game the next day. This schedule is really tough. After the match, I try to eat evenly and a lot. Normally I dine with my teammates in the cafeteria, but if we are not satisfied with the food, so we go off campus and buy some food for our recovery.
CAH: You scored a wonder-goal after a good first touch in the semifinal. You roared and jumped up to the top of your head three times and made a nice dive to the bench. Tell us how you felt and how you got to do such a ceremony after you scored a wonderful goal that everyone wants to make!
Choi: Our team kept putting pressure on the opponent. We had three perfect chances to score, but we missed out on them all. One goal was desperately needed for the championship. At that point, I scored! I decided to go to the bench where there are my teammates and coach. While running to the bench, I had nothing to do so that ceremony came about spontaneously.
CAH: You’ve won both tournaments in two years. What’s the difference between the first win and the current one?
Choi: Last year, I was a freshman. For that reason, I had a role to assist my team. This time, unlike last year, I had the captain armband on. Having more responsibility, I ran more and harder.
CAH: In the ‘2018 College Football League match’, you wore the captain’s armband in recognition of your skill and leadership. What did you feel when you participated in the game as a captain?
Choi: I have few experiences as a captain. It is hard for me to remember the last time I suited up with the captain’s armband. For this reason, I felt a bit of pressure. However, because my teammates believed in me and followed me a lot, it was fine and we had a satisfying result. I wasn’t introverted before attending university, but after entering, I talked less in the matches with many seniors. My coach pointed this out to me. After this competition, it got better as I talked more to teammates as a captain.
CAH: Many universities run a soccer club. How did you get into Chung-Ang University’s soccer team? Tell us why you joined this team.
Choi: When I was in the second grade of high school, I injured my knees. After a long recovery, I could step back on the soccer field in July of my third grade. Coaches in universities and pro teams watch players’ performances when they are in third grade, so it was important for me to play in matches at that time. However, due to the injury, I showed nothing in my last year in high school. Fortunately, Choi Duk-joo, the coach of Chung-ang University’s football team, believed in me, saying that recovery and making the form is more important. I am grateful to him for giving me a valuable chance. I am much better now than I was at that time.
CAH: You must eat a lot of food because you are an athlete who consumes a lot of energy. So, tell us what’s your favorite food and restaurant on campus and why.
Choi: Normally, I dine with my schoolmates at the cafeteria in the dormitory, but the food is not always satisfying. Off campus, I don’t dine, I just get some snacks. If there is an away-match, I get accommodations with my friends and eat out at restaurants.
CAH: In other interviews, you talked about ‘calmness’ as being your biggest advantage. You dream of playing in the K-League, the A-match, and the Premier League, but, as you know, the tempo in those leagues is much faster than in the college league. How do you think the current strength of ‘calmness’ will be revealed in such places?
Choi: As I am from the Pohang Steelers youth team, I could attend the R-league, where we can see pro players. I played three matches there. Even though they are not the first team among pro teams, their pressure is still quite fast. Being in the match, I have been more offensive. I think it is possible both to participate in the game more offensively and to have more relief, which is my advantage. To make this work, I keep practicing and training.
CAH: You played as a U-17 national athlete in the past, but due to injuries, you couldn’t play anymore. Maybe you would have expected more than anyone else. We want to know what it was like then.
Choi:I was moved to the hospital right after the injury. I heard that we won against Brazil and was delighted. My team won the next match. I cheered on my teammates but was sad because of the injury. It was too bad I couldn’t run for my team, so the competition is not a good memory for me.
CAH: You succeeded in rehabilitation and now you are back playing as a soccer player again. You must have had a hard time, both mentally and physically, because of the long rehabilitation period. How could you overcome the hard rehabilitation period?
Choi: Having a lingering attachment does not mean the moment I was injured comes back to me. During my knee recovery, I tried hard not to think about that moment and rehabilitated with my trainers and brothers with a positive mind.
CAH: Do you watch many soccer games? Your favorite team is Barcelona. Barcelona’s performance last year went well, but CAH thinks it’s a bit down these days. Is there a position you would like to play on the Barcelona team later, or a player you want to replace?
Choi: Sure, as you know my favorite club is FC Barcelona, I would be glad if I could run in FC Barcelona. It is my dream to stand on Camp Nou, which is the home filed of FC Barcelona. I wish to run in my position, midfielder. I didn’t think about replacing any players, but my favorite player is Messi.
CAH: You got lots of attention for winning the championship twice in a row! Tell us about your future career or plans as a player.
Choi: First of all, I have to make my way to the K-league and become a main player. As I perform well in the league, I believe the national team coach will call on me. I also want to get to the World Cup and become a famous soccer player in the world. At last, I even want to enter FC Barcelona.
After the meeting, Choi went to rest. It was very hot, but the training was still tough. He is a 21-year-old university student, but he is a player who overcame a big injury, and he is waiting for his first K-league match as a pro player. CAH hopes to watch him one day at the World Cup or in the big leagues that he dreams of running in.
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