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Interview: Eom Ji-sung looking forward to K League 1 return with Gwangju FC

With Gwangju FC returning to K League 1 in 2023, young star Eom Ji-sung is afforded the opportunity to test himself against the country's best players and teams. The 20-year-old winger says he's looking forward to taking in the atmosphere at Daegu, Sangam, Jeonju, Suwon and Ulsan but is also backing himself to perform in the top tier.
Eom Ji-sung is heading into his third year as a professional footballer having made his debut in 2021, the year Gwangju FC suffered relegation to the second tier. 

But the Griffins made an instant return to the top flight by winning the K League 2 title, helped in part by nine goals and one assist from Eom Ji-sung.

And to cap off a perfect year for Eom and Gwangju, he was named as 2022 K League 2 Young Player of the Year. 

He and the rest of the Gwangju FC squad are preparing for the season ahead. 

Q: How has your first overseas training camp been? 

A: It's an environment where we can concentrate solely on football and so preparations are going well. We've been working with the manager for one year now and the players already at the club so it's not awkward and we are all very comfortable working under him.

Q: How has the actual training been?

A: I would be lying if I said it hasn't been hard. But I think it'd be strange if a winter training camp wasn't hard. Because there isn't a lot of time to get into shape when the season actually starts, this time right now is very important.

Q: What were your first thoughts when you saw the fixtures?

A: I think it's going to be enjoyable. In my first year as well we began the season with Suwon Bluewings away, that was my debut. We're away to Suwon this year too so I am looking forward to it. I really want to feel the K League 1 atmosphere again quickly. I enjoyed it in my first year. It was my first time feeling it, and I think I had a different experience in my second year.

FNR

Q: What are your thoughts on facing the K League 1 teams again?

A: In my first year I went into things a bit blindly and without thinking about it. Now, I have a bit of experience, and having competed with other players in a professional team, I really want to see where I'm at as a player. I would to see how far I have progressed, and see how I am able to compete. By quickly getting to grips with the flow of the game, I want to be maximizing the areas of my game I am good at, such as one-on-ones and getting in behind and shooting in and around the final third.

Q: You are a player with lots of qualities, but what aspects of your game are you looking to test?

A: Aerial duels. I am confident in situations where the ball is in the air. I went in for aerial duels confidently in K League 2 but I am wondering how I'll do in the first division.

Q: Which team are you looking forward to facing the most?

A: Each team has its strong points but there are some teams' stadiums I'm looking to visit for the atmosphere. Daegu FC, FC Seoul, Suwon Bluewings, Ulsan Hyundai, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. The atmosphere at Daegu is very good, I have good memories of that stadium and I would like to experience that again.

Eom Ji-sung at Gwangju FC's pre-season training camp in Thailand (image via Gwangju FC)
Q: There'll be a lot of interest when you come up against Um Won-sang...

A: It'll be fun, I think. From being on the same team, one of us on the left and the other on the right to then going up against each other. If I'm on the left and (Um) Won-sang is on the right then we'll be on the same side. I'll learn what there is to learn and out on the pitch it'll be just be one player going up against the other doing their best to make sure they don't lose. (Um) Won-sang has pace, is very fit, and does a lot of things better than I do but my strength is my left foot - left-footed shooting and I'm more confident in controlling things than (Um) Won-sang (laughing).

Q: There'll be a lot of teams nervous to face you...

A: I think that's true because of how well we played and the results we got last year. But this will be the first time playing in K League 1 under the manager so, for now, we just need to see how things go.

Q: The manager Lee Jung-hyo will have been preparing for K League 1 but what aspects do you think will be different?

A: The most noticeable differences are tactical elements. Last year we tried to get bodies in midfield to help with ball retention but now we are looking to use the flanks a bit more to create attacking situations. If we can get to grips with that then I think we can be a competitive team. The manager is fantastic, really.


Q: You seem to be a player that the manager wants to push even further...

A: Responding to that is the only way you can improve so I think this was why I was able to improve last year. Not being complacent with one goal or two, trying to score a third or even a fourth - that's what the manager said is being a professional. Rather than thinking about goals and assists, it's about trying to do as much as you can. 

Q: What are you expecting from the rest of pre-season? 

A: For the time we have left, I think we'll be looking to work on tactical stuff and to try and gel together as a team more. We know that it's about the collective rather than individual ability and if we can move as one team then we can get good results. I've been thinking a lot about the sound of the crowd cheering when a long-range shot hits the back of the net. I miss that sound. I've played football for more than half of my life, but I think I still have more than half left, so I'm looking forward to seeing what will happen. There's still a lot I need to improve on but I will learn a lot and improve under the manager we have here.

Via Gwangju FC press release

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