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Shopee Cup™ will provide fun to many ASEAN football fans: Kaya’s Park Yiyoung

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04 Jul 2024


One of Kaya FC-Iloilo’s new signings for the ongoing campaign, Park Yiyoung arrives in the Philippines after gaining plenty of experience playing against some of the top clubs in Germany.

Born in Seoul, the defender took the brave decision to move to the Philippines aged 18 back in 2013 and the Southeast Asian nation has become his home away from home in the truest sense.

“Everything was new for me. The first impression was that it's hot and humid. It was my first time playing abroad, so it was unfamiliar and difficult in terms of food, culture and language.

“To be honest, football is football, but I believed that the first priority was to quickly learn about the Filipino culture and language (English),” said Park in an exclusive chat with ASEAN United FC.

A year later, Park went on to feature in the United Football League, the then-top division of club football in the Philippines for Team Socceroo FC.

He eventually went on to score two goals against future employers Kaya FC-Iloilo in his final appearance of the season and his tenacity meant that greater things would soon follow.

Park was soon on the flight to Europe in Germany’s second-largest city, Hamburg where he put pen to paper on a deal for 2. Bundesliga side FC St. Pauli and after an initial couple of years honing his skills in the lower tiers, he finally got his big chance in 2017.

“I still vividly remember my debut opponent: Stuttgart, who were at the top of the league table at that time. To be able to play against such teams was very interesting and a valuable experience for me. Playing against high-level teams and individual players every weekend has been a great blessing in my football career,” recalled the Korean native.

It was a baptism of fire with Park playing the full 90 minutes at centre-back with St. Pauli narrowly losing the game 1-0 to Stuttgart, who went on to win the league and earn promotion to the Bundesliga and even finished above Bayern Munich in second spot in the recently concluded season.

The 2017-18 season would turn out to be the most crucial for Park when his versatility earned him a spot in the starting lineup, going out of his comfort zone to start matches as a right-back as well as a defensive midfielder, once again playing against current Bundesliga clubs such as Union Berlin and VFL Bochum with his winning goal in a 1-0 triumph against Arminia Bielefeld eventually helping St. Pauli avoid relegation in the penultimate match of the season.

“It was my dream to play in a packed stadium every week at a high level, but I must mention that as a foreigner, I always had to fight to survive. I learned a lot about football.

“Especially important are tactical understanding, organisation, analysis, duels, and respect for football. I learned a lot about the strengths of German football and was able to grow as a footballer and a person,” acknowledged Park on the importance of German football philosophy in his career.

Fast forward six years and St. Pauli have earned promotion to the Bundesliga after 13 years away while Park is back in his happy ‘home’ in the Philippines after signing for the champions Kaya FC-Iloilo.

Before last season, Kaya had notably reached the Round of 16 in the AFC Cup in 2016, had won two Copa Paulino Alcantara titles and was only one of two Filipino clubs to have played in the AFC Champions League.

Kaya, who are named after legendary musician Bob Marley’s 1978 studio album, ushered in a new era in Philippines club football when they completed the domestic double in 2023 including their maiden Philippines Football League title.

“I felt like I needed something new in my football journey. Kaya is the most stable club in the Philippines, the defending league champion and cup winner, and is a team participating in continental competitions.