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'Stay with us, keep supporting us': Cho Yu-min issues rally cry to Daejeon Hana Citizen fans

Another crack at the playoffs beckons for Daejeon Hana Citizen in 2022. But club captain Cho Yu-min believes that the team has what it takes to right the wrongs of 2021 and 2022 and seal a return to the top flight. 

Cho Yu-min joined Daejeon Hana Citizen over the winter from K League 1 side Suwon FC. It was quite the coup for the Purples, a statement of intent. Last year Daejeon had leaked far too many goals and had lost Lee Ji-sol to Jeju United and Lee Woong-he to Gangwon. 

Cho was part of Kim Do-kyun's team which secured a fifth-place finish last year - the club's first season back in K League 1 - making 31 appearances including 25 starts and scoring four goals. The year before he made 24 appearances as Suwon won promotion via the playoffs. The 2018 Asian Games gold medal winner, then, was a key part of the setup at Castle Park.

But, the Purple Arena project was sold to him by Daejeon boss Lee Min-sung and he made the switch from Suwon. Lee and Cho had worked together before as the former was Kim Hak-bum's assistant manager for the Korea U23 team between 2018 and 2020. The task at hand was simple, Daejeon simply have to return to the top flight - a place they haven't seen since 2015. 

Cho was one of several new signings at Purple Arena before the start of the 2022 season, including the likes if Lee Chang-geun, Kim Young-wook, and Kwon Han-jin who might have been candidates to wear the captain's armband at other clubs but, instead, Lee Min-sung opted for 25-year-old Cho Yu-min. Such is the belief in Cho as a player and his leadership skills.

Cho admits, though, that this season has been tough, that it has been full of ups and downs but, he says speaking to K League United in the week leading up to Chuseok, that he is confident that the team can win promotion this season.


Q: How are you?

A: We're in a situation that we need to improve and the players are working hard to get through it.

Q: How would you assess the season so far? From the team’s point of view, and also from your own point of view.

Personally, there was the motivation for me to come to Daejeon. It’s been a season that I have been really grateful for, the fans have given lots of support and I’ve been able to break into the national team. From the team’s perspective, we’ve had good moments and bad moments throughout the season but I think the situation we’re in at the moment has been the most difficult. But, I think when the season’s over and done with we’ll have achieved what we set out to achieve and that’s winning promotion.

Q: Gwangju are far ahead and Anyang too look like they're breaking away. What’s the aim now?

A: Without a doubt, the aim is to win promotion. Our original goal was to win the title but, realistically, winning the title will be difficult now so we have to make sure we win the playoffs and go up that way.

Q: Why did you choose Daejeon? Was it a tough decision to leave Suwon and drop down to K League 2?

A: Yeah, as you said, it wasn’t an easy decision for me to move from K League 1 to K League 2. But after speaking on the phone with the manager here, and hearing how serious he was with what he was saying to me, I felt like I was able to take the risk. As well, Daejeon are a team that has potential and can get promotion so I was confident in making the decision to come here. Of course, in K League 1 as well there was motivation for me there… to improve as a player. I moved to Daejeon because I thought, with this ultimate goal of winning promotion, I could improve and develop as a player.

Q: What’s it like being captain? Does it put extra pressure on you to perform?

Actually, I was vice-captain at Suwon and wore the armband a few times in the absence of Lee Han-saem who was club captain at the time. But being captain now feels a lot different to how it felt then. If you lose or if things aren’t going well then you feel more responsible and you self-reflect. But I think that’s just all part and parcel of being a captain.

Q: What’s it like being captain at 25 when there are a lot of older, experienced players in the dressing room?

A: I don’t feel any sort of pressure being captain even though there are older or more experienced players at the club. They are considerate and they support me and for that, I’m very grateful. I’m just sorry that I can’t help them more…. Again, they help me as captain and for that I’m thankful.

Q: When you deliver a little speech in the huddle before games and in training, is it hard to think of something new?

A: At Daejeon, we have a lot of young or inexperienced players and they need some guidance. If I wasn’t captain, I wouldn't have stepped up to do that because I know that someone else would be doing it but as I am captain, I’m just trying to help get the lads in the right frame of mind. 

Q: What’s most satisfying for you as a defender, scoring in a win or keeping a cleansheet?

A: It’s my job to stop goals going in and so I’d probably pick keeping a cleansheet over scoring.

Q: Daejeon have played in a back three or four this season, which one do you prefer and which best suits the players at the club? 

Media Officer: This question is excluded. It would be difficult to answer questions about team tactics.

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Q: Daejeon have had some bad luck in the playoffs (VAR drama in 2020, 2-0 up vs Gangwon but lost 4-2), from the captain’s point of view, what is it about the Daejeon team this year that will put this right?

A: I think, to avoid making the mistakes the team made last year, we need to make sure we always have a clear sense of what our goal is. And, so the motivation to win promotion is to not give up when you’re tired and to keep going even in the moments when you feel like giving up. Then, by winning matches, we turn things around and, for us, that means winning promotion.

Q: Your heading stats are incredible. I'm curious what's your secret?

A: In middle school, I used to practice heading with a ball on a piece of string. This wasn’t just so I could be good at heading, just because I quite enjoyed it and then what I practised kinda began to show when I was playing. As I got a bit older, I kinda gained a bit of a spring or a leap..  and know-how, so I was able to get better at heading.

Q: Has this helped you score goals? You’ve scored five goals this season, your best return ever, and most have been headers in the box.

A: I think it’s definitely helped. But, in defensive situations, heading and in set pieces, the way you head the ball is different from when you’re attacking. But because I used to be a forward and have this know-how when it comes to heading, I think I’ve been able to be more of a threat.

Q: Which forward player has been the hardest to play against this season?

A: Tiago from Gyeongnam. What you have to be the most careful about with Tiago is heading. If he’s running at full tilt and then heads the ball, even if you know it’s going to happen, you can’t stop him. I always say we need to be careful about this when we play against him.

Q: Finally, what message do you have for Daejeon fans?

A: I'll do my best out on the pitch to make sure that the fans aren’t disappointed, so I hope you stay with us and keep supporting us like they are now. Thank you.

[READ: Why and how have Daejeon Hana Citizen blown automatic promotion?]

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