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Interview: Seongnam FC's Marin Oršulić

After a shocking end to the 2016 season that saw the league's most successful club relegated into the Challenge, Seongnam FC went about overhauling their team, bringing in a number of new faces in order to make their stay in Korea's second division as short as possible. One of these new players was centre back Marin Oršulić, signed from Cypriot first division side Omonia Nicosia. Having now found his feet at the club, quickly becoming a firm fan favourite in the process, Marin took the time to sit down with K League United to answer our questions as well as reply to supporters over a game of FIFA 17.
(Photo Credit: Seongnam FC Official Facebook Page)

Despite being in the K League Challenge this year, Seongnam are quite an attractive club based on their history in Korea. How much did you know about them, or what were you told about them, before making the decision to come here?

To be honest, before I come, I'd heard about Seongnam because I know they played Champions League before and were a big club. But, two or three days before I knew I'd come, I read everything on the internet so I think I'd know enough about the club.

Despite the slow start Seongnam are expected to win promotion this year, do you feel that level of expectation? 

Yeah, we have big expectations before the season start. Everyone expects Seongnam will easily win this league. Also, maybe because of this we started the season not so good. And also, it was like 25 new players and a new coach. Everything was new and I think the team just needed time and now everything is fine.

So do you think the team have what it takes to go up via the playoffs?

I'm sure we will be in the play-offs. I'm sure. 

Have you been in any playoff campaigns before?

Yes, in Cyprus we play a playoff-type of championship so the first six clubs play between each other.

Personally, I don't think it's the most fair way to determine a championship, because a full season is a full body of work. But, I'm always curious to hear from a player's perspective. How do you feel about play-offs verse the single table format?

For me, it's fine this season. For this season it's fine! [laughs] But I can say I agree with you, because also, when you watch the Poland league, you play I think twice or three times with everybody and after, first six clubs, the points are halved. For me this, is a joke. Like you say, the team's work hard to be in second or third position during the season and then, after that, they need to play again in the play off

Is it fun to be involved in the play-offs though?

Yes, it's fun. You know that every game is a big game. So it's really nice to play this and hopefully this year I will [play] again in the play off and I can't wait.

Do you think the experience of playing in play-offs before will be helpful to the team?

Yes, I think. Not just my experience of playing in play-offs, but my experience of playing in six countries I think. I think I have some experience that will help my team but also in my team you have players like [Kim] Do-heon, like [Ahn] Jae-joon. They win the cup, they win the league, and win things you know. I think we have good experience in our team and this is something because, as I said before, I am sure we will be in the play-offs because we have players with experience and quality.

You've just signed Kim Dong-chan recently, he was the MVP last year, he scored 20 league goals. When I saw Seongnam had signed him, I was certain Seongnam would be in the play-offs because he is that good. Surely you must've seen that so far in the time he has been at the club.

I heard from the guys about him, that he was the MVP and best scorer and was really happy that he came because we lost one of the best players. We lost [Hwang] Ui-jo so we needed a good replacement and, thanks to God, he came here. So I really have big expectations for this guy.

So let's move on the the FA Cup. You scored in the cup win over Gangwon, which means a lot to Seongnam fans especially given the recent history. So Seongnam are now in the quarter final. With a game against [non-league] Mokpo coming up, do you think Seongnam can go all the way to the final?

To be honest, the cup is difficult to predict something. in your countries as well, you always have a big surprise. But I think this year we all know we don't have the season like we expect. So I think the cup is something we need to take very seriously. This is one way to finish the season happy and one way to finish winning some trophy. So I really hope we can win the cup.

If you could choose, would you sacrifice a cup final in place of promotion?

I think I want to go to Classic. I think it is better for the club. It is better for sponsors, because if you are in Classic you have more sponsors it is easy for the people in the club so I think, if you ask the people in the club, they'll choose Classic so I will choose Classic too.

How much did that FA Cup win over Gangwon kickstart the teams season because, after that, you went undefeated for seven or eight games after that. Was that a big moment?

This was just something that brings back confidence to the guys. I said from the third or fourth game when we play, when I saw this league, and respect to all teams in the league, Seongnam have the best quality in this league and the best players. I said, it was just a matter of time when we start to go up but we needed something like this game to put us up.

So would you say that game was that spark you needed?

Yes, also because of last year. So I was very happy for our fans. Before the game, they sent me a lot of messages, "Just win [against] Gangwon".

Perhaps that was when that picture was made

Probably! [Laughs]

So you think that, obviously with the way you've played so far has made the fans see you as their new hero. Surely that goal would have gone a long way in endearing you to supporters. Did you feel that afterwards? Did you know quite how big of a goal it was?

I feel from the first day big support from fans. I don't know why, but from the first day we have some connection and I think they see always that. Sometimes this is enough, sometimes no, but they always see that I give everything from me in the game. I think this is important for players also. Not just for our fans, but for all fans.

You’ve built up a strong reputation amongst the Seongnam fans for your defensive work, but you have also built up quite reputation with other teams and local press. You recently played Asan where they came out with the comment you are like a "castle wall". What is it like to have been described as such?

It's really nice [Laughs]. It's really nice when someone says like this.

As a defender, what are the biggest differences between attackers in this league and the previous leagues you have played in?

I think the attackers are faster than in Europe, but in Europe they like to attack a little bit more strongly and like keeping the ball. Here, strikers are fast and it's dangerous.

You’ve picked up five yellow cards and a red this season. With that in mind, do you think there is a difference in refereeing standards between the K League and the previous divisions you have played in?

I'm really happy with referees to be honest. Maybe the best referees [I've experienced] in my career. Until now I don't really have one thing in my mind that is bad. Also my yellow cards and red card were the right decisions, so I have nothing bad to say.

So you don't feel, given your size, sometimes referees favour the shorter attackers?

Okay, sometimes I don't make a foul, but they think it's a foul because I'm much bigger than my opponent but these yellow cards until now, even if I was a referee, I would give.

Seongnam see their ambition as promotion back into the K League Classic, but have you set yourself any personal targets you would like to achieve in your first year in Korea?

For sure. I want to make my name big here. This is for sure because I come as I want something new in my career. I come here to make my name. I come here, and also my target is also, because we talk a lot about promotion, to go into the Classic. I know it will be difficult because of the bad start, but I still believe and know that we can do this.

With ambitions of promotion, you likely have a lot of pressure on the field. How do you relax between games in your free time?

Just walking with my dog. This helps me to be relaxed and this is really something good in my life and I enjoy it.

What kind of dog do you have?

It's just a mixed dog. I found it seven or eight years before, and from these days she is just with me.

What's her name?

Her name is Jata. I found her in Zagreb on the street. To be honest, at first I just want to take and give to the shelter. But after some time, you know, I meet my girlfriend and she really loves her. She takes care of my dog, now her dog. She takes care and with time, day to day, I start to love this dog and cannot imagine life without her. So everywhere we go, everywhere I play, she is with me

Marin and his dog Jata at Tancheon Sports Complex

As this is your first time playing in East Asia, have you had any difficulties adjusting to the culture? 

First two months was very difficult to me because everything was new. I was born again, I don't know nothing. I need to learn a lot of new things. It was really difficult for me that first month. Also, the training ground, outside of the pitch, I was wondering if I can, but now I feel really a part of this and I'm very happy.

Anything in particular you are missing from back home?

No. I just miss my home a little bit because it was like one and half years without seeing my parents, my friends. But this is football. When I accept this offer, I know this. I need to be strong about this and make my job professional, then after November or December [when it is the off-season], I will have time to enjoy.

If there was one meal from home that you could have on your table tomorrow, what would that be?

It will be one mixed fish, I don't know how to say this in English. In Croatia, people call this Brudet. It is a mix of domestic fish in Croatia, and it is something that people often eat in my part of Croatia. This is something like Kimchi for Korean people, so this I miss. If you go to Croatia one time, you need to try this.

One more question, who's an under the radar Seongnam player a lot of folks might not notice?

As I said before, Seongnam have very good quality and really all players at Seongnam are good players. But let's say, two defensive midfielders from Seongnam, Ahn Sang-hyun. and Lee Hu-kyon. I think they are half the team because they make an amazing job for us, and they are powerful for our team. Also [Yeon] Je-woon who plays centre back with me. He is a very good player, fast, he knows how to play football and he listens. I think in the future he will be part of the national team. I really want to see him there.

Also, left back [Lee] Ji-min, right back [Lee] Tae-hee, are some amazing players. I think these two players because we all read best eleven, we all read every week about this, I think these two players deserve to be more often in the best eleven. Okay, they don't score, but they make a lot of good things for our club.

What is it about their game specifically that you admire?

They fight a lot, they run a lot and they know how to play football. But first, they are big fighters and this is something that I really like. They have big hearts, it's amazing.

To finish, do you have any message for the Seongnam fans?

I would like to say thanks for everything they do, the way they support me and the way they support the team. I really feel very nice here because of them, because of everything so a big thanks and I also want to see them in more numbers in the next games because now we start the games where we really need them behind us so, if they come, just come and support your team like you do until now.

FIFA 17 Interview

In addition to sitting down to an interview with us, Marin took the time to answer a number of your questions which had been sent in via Facebook and Twitter. The twist though, was that he would have to answer them whilst playing as Seongnam in a game of FIFA 17! You can watch the video below, or by clicking here.

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