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The Erik Paartalu Interview

Australian defensive midfielder Erik Paartlau upon signing for K League champions Jeonbuk Hyundai motors from Melbourne City FC. (Photo Credit: AFC)
Australian defensive midfielder Erik Paartlau upon signing for K-League champions Jeonbuk Hyundai motors last month. (Photo Credit: AFC)
Arriving in Jeonju towards the end of manager Choi Kang-hee's winter spending spree, Erik Paartalu looks set to assist in shoring up Jeonbuk's midfield for the upcoming K-League season.

Erik brings with him a wealth of experience, having played a pivotal role in Brisbane Roar's Premiership and Championship wins back in 2010-11, famously equalising in the grand final with a dramatic 120th minute header. He has also more recently played for Melbourne City FC where he made a significant contribution in helping to reignite the club's title bid this season before parting for South Korea. The defensive midfielder has also had brief spells in China, Thailand and Scotland. He is now looking towards continental success, joining a club who are once again competing for the league title, whilst also aiming to re-stamp their authority in Asia.

Having lived in Korea for just over month, featuring in both of Jeonbuk's competitive games thus far, Erik was kind enough to take time out of his busy training schedule to answer a few questions for K League United, ahead of the K-League's curtain raiser against FC Seoul this Saturday.

Matthew Binns: You’ve been in Korea for one month now, how are you adapting to life over here?

Erik Paartalu: I've been here a month but I feel very settled. The club have been fantastic in helping me settle quickly so I can focus on my football without the smaller things getting in the way. Life here is easy to adapt to. After spells in China and Thailand, I find Korea is easy in this respect.

MB: Have you had the chance to take in any of the local sites or try any local delicacies?

EP: I live close by to some Korean restaurants and cafes. Luckily I like my coffee because it seems there are a million coffee places here in Jeonju.

I like the Korean food. In Australia we have many Korean restaurants but nothing as authentic as here. I'm still adjusting my spice level though.

MB: Is there anything in particular you’re missing from Australia?

EP: No, I don't miss Australia. In my career I've been lucky to have has opportunities to test myself in other countries and competitions. I know this is my job and I accept that it's always going to be the way. Of course you miss friends and family but if you stay in the bubble of your comfort zone then you never really evolve as a person.

MB: What in particular attracted you to the K-League and Jeonbuk Hyundai?

EP: I was attracted to Jeonbuk because they are a massive club in Asia. Also, they have been very successful in the K-league. I wanted to be around like-minded people who want to win things and hopefully I can help them add another trophy to their cabinet.

MB: You follow in the footsteps of your fellow compatriot and fan favourite Alex Wilkinson, who made over 100 appearances for Jeonbuk. Did you speak to Alex at all before making the transfer and did his time spent here have any influence on your move?

EP: Yes I spoke with Alex and asked for his thoughts and advice. He spent a long time here so I respected his words. He spoke very highly of the club and I had no hesitations after speaking with him.

MB: Has he given you any advice on living in Jeonju or where to go?

EP: He has told me quite a lot places to eat and told me about the city but it's really up to the individual to find what they like and dislike.

MB: You arrive here from Melbourne City where you were much adored by fans. How difficult a decision was it to leave the A-League to come and play in pastures new?

EP: It's always [difficult] leaving a club for another but I felt it was too good of an opportunity to pass me by. City are an ambitious club in Australia and they will definitely win something sooner or later. I enjoyed my time there and the people I met I'll never forget but in football it's a short career and when a club like Jeonbuk take notice of you, you have to listen.

MB: You had a pretty impressive debut against FC Tokyo. Were you surprised to find yourself in the starting line up so soon after making your transfer?

EP: I felt my debut was a difficult match to play in but I was glad to play my first game for the club.
I hope to play many more for the club and there is definitely more to come from myself and the team this season.

MB: The crowd topped the 15,000 mark, which is pretty impressive for a cold February evening, with many supporters excited to get a glimpse of yourself and Jeonbuk’s other new signings. How did you rate the game as far as debuts go?

EP: The game itself was shaky. [It was] the first and last 15 minutes where I thought in between we had the better of the play, I'm learning everyday how the team play and also how I fit into that. There is only really one way to find out, being put in the deep end so to speak and feel it in a game.

It was great to see so many people on such a cold night.

Up for the challenge: Erik Paartalu makes his competitive debut for Jeonbuk Hyundai during the ACL 2-1 win over FC Tokyo.
Up for the challenge: Erik makes his competitive debut for Jeonbuk during the 2-1 win over FC Tokyo.
(Photo credit: Howard Cheng)
MB: You have just came back from China, where Jeonbuk were unfortunate not to come away with something against Jiangsu. While the result was disappointing, how do you think the match went as a whole?

EP: The Jiangsu match was a tough game away from home. I felt we made it difficult for ourselves at times, but we did well to get ourselves back into the match but it wasn't to be.

MB: Jiangsu are one of a few Chinese clubs spending big at the moment. Having spent some time in the Chinese Super League, do you have any opinion on the league’s recent development?

EP: China is a great league to play in, you play against some real big superstar names. I played against guys like Yakubu, Conca, Elkson, Keita etc. I think the competition is getting stronger each year and one day could be one of the strongest in the world.

MB: In just over a week, you will have your third competitive fixture of the year and it is yet another massive game for the club, especially given the scintillating form of FC Seoul’s Adriano. How is the preparation going ahead of their arrival?

EP: We have been preparing the minute we stepped off the plane from Seoul, the next day we were in training and focusing on the start of the season.

I think everyone is itching to just get the games going, there are so many fixtures so we all need to be ready.

MB: Remaining focused ahead of such large matches can take its toll. How do you prefer to relax between matches?

EP: I prepare the same for every game and training, it's a process. Off the field I spend time with my wife and relax the mind and body as much as I can.

MB: Playing in a team of non-English speakers must be difficult, especially given how crucial your role is in linking up the midfield and defence. How has the on-pitch dialog been for you?

EP: On the pitch is never a problem, all you need to know is names and directions. My position is critical in passing information on so hopefully they will listen.

MB: What useful Korean phrases have you picked up already?

EP: Of course swear words are the first things to learn, but I'm still learning numbers and simple phrases, I plan on getting lessons eventually.

MB: Finally, what would you like to achieve from your first season in the K-League?

I want to give a good account of myself, I want to play in as many games as possible, and I want to win something. I'd love to be able to say I've won something whilst playing in Asia!

MB: Thank's for your time Erik. Good luck for the season ahead!

EP: Thanks mate!

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