Aashish Gadhvi introduces Kim Do-Heon, the new Korean star in the Premier League.
After an impressive season, West Bromich Albion were great contenders to be beamed up Star Trek style to the Premiership, and by the end of the year they were crowned champions of a very tight, highly competitive Coca-Cola Football League. Whatever can be said about the quality of football in the league, the Championship is one of the tightest leagues around, and any one of four or five teams could have won been crowned top dogs. Make no mistake, West Brom thoroughly deserve to be in the best league in the world. West Brom’s promotion to the Premier League next season also sees the introduction of Kim Do-Heon, the fifth South Korean to play in the Premier League. Little is known about Kim outside of Korea, and since his arrival in England, he remains in the shadows. Shedding light on Kim is no easy task, so let’s all take stock of what we already know about him. He’s Korean. And that’s about it.
Although little is known about him here, the 25-year-old midfielder has a decent record for South Korea, where he played in the under-23 squad as a prominent playmaker and played for the Olympic team in 2004 that reached the quarter finals. However, as is the story with most Korean players, injuries and fatigue soon took their toll, and he was constantly in and out of the national team. Domestically he played for Korean giants Suwon Samsung Bluewing, winning the domestic K-league in 2004, but signing for Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma the very next year. There he faired much better, playing regularly, scoring goals and making vital assists. He’s often described as the Asian Paul Scholes for his passing accuracy, but this comparison is problematic as it conveys doggedness and strength, which is two things Kim doesn’t have. It also is slightly unfair on Kim, as he plays more as a winger than as a centre midfielder like Scholes. He could probably be compared better to his Korean counterparts, Park Ji-sung and Lee Chun-soo, which probably explains why he hasn’t had as much time in the national team when Park and Lee are fit. Apart from his passing skill he also possesses freakish fitness, like most Korean players, and legend has it that he can run 100 meters in 12 seconds.
Although information about him is scarce, the wonderful world of the Internet offers some pretty decent videos of him, especially his free kicks and dead ball skills. But like all things on the internet, they look nice, but are often hideously misleading. Kim has a tendency, like that of Lee Dong-gook to fail his own talents on the pitch. His performances for Suwon and Seongnam have never really transferred well on the international stage, and he has been given the cruel description of playing in ‘Ninja mode’. This is not because he’s a deadly assassin, but because he has the ability to go missing at will! This may even explain why he has not really cemented himself at West Brom, despite scoring in the 2-0 victory over Q.P.R, which sealed the Championship title for them. One example of this is in the F.A Cup semi-final against Portsmouth, which Kim had the honour of playing in. When a last minute corner gave West Brom the chance to equalise, all the momentum was with the Baggies, with the crowd roaring, every player in the box, and even the goalkeeper coming up. Kim stepped up to take the corner. He delivered a short low stinker of a corner, which was calmly headed away by a Portsmouth defender on the edge of the penalty area. Ninja mode? More like damp squid mode.
Kim may have bottled a big moment at Wembley in a FA Cup semi-final, but hey we all make mistakes right? These are early days for Kim and the new test of the Premiership comes quickly to him, and time will tell how well he can adapt. We have seen success stories (Park Ji-sung) and horror stories (Lee Dong-gook) and I truly hope that Kim can cement a place with West Brom and get some good Premiership play under his belt before the World Cup in 2010. Kim has the potential and the talent to be a player in the same mould as Park Ji-sung, and a player of that skill at West Brom could really become a cult hero. He just needs to work hard to make sure that Ninja mode stays well and truly in the shadows.
During the finalisation of this article, Kim Do-Heon scored a hat trick in South Korea’s 3-1 World Cup Qualifier victory against Turkmenistan. Korea now advances to the second stage of qualifiers along with North Korea. Hopefully a sign of things to come!