Interviewed/ written by Jeong-ho Seo of Football Tribe Korea; edited by Mihyun Chung
It is not difficult to find a Korean player in J.League: Hwang Ui-jo, Kim Young-gwon, and Oh Jae-suk from Gamba Osaka, Na Sang-ho and Jang Hyun-soo from FC Tokyo, and Kim Seung-gyu at Vissel Kobe – the list can go on and on.
This applies to J2 League where a lot of promising young players have been staying. One player, however, joined J2 League after the season started: Yang Dong-hyen, the former Pohang Steelers player who was also the second highest scorer in the 2017 K League.
Yang joined Cerezo Osaka after the 2017 season had ended. His first-ever overseas challenge had not been easy. He had scored two goals while playing for 1,446 minutes during the one whole season.
It was thus not very surprising there had been a lot of rumours regarding his future. His choice was Avispa Fukuoka in the J2 league. He had not played a single pre-season game as his transfer was complete after the season started but seems to be successfully adjusted to the team, having scored in two consecutive matches.
“There is not much difference [between Korea and Japan]; I am not young anymore,” said Yang when asked about his life in Japan. However, he described the difference between the two leagues.
“In Korea, the main focus is on power and speed. A lot of pressing through long passes and the second ball with active use of physical abilities is involved during the match.
“In J.League, players try to use short passes. Defenders and even goalkeepers participate in building up the game. The tempo of the match is rather fast. The distance among players is short too, allowing fast switch to pressing.”
When asked about his challenging season last year, he said: “Cerezo is not the right environment where I can show my strengths. I was supposed to work on doing what I am good at, but instead, I had to focus on others. The role given to me was also very different [from days in Pohang].”
Yang further shared his vision and ambition at his new team.
“Avispa was not my first option. I was preparing for another season at Cerezo, but it was not as easy. I didn’t want to give up and go back to Korea, though, as playing overseas is not easy in general.
“I chose Avispa because I wanted to play more. I found the team’s objectives similar to mine.”
Yang so far scored two goals in the first four matches. The former Pohang star player explained the reason for his good performance this season, especially given that he missed the pre-season.
“Training has always been the same. However, it has been easier here as the coach wants me to be where I can score. My teammates have been helping me a lot, too.
“My first objective here is to score more than 15 goals. I will come up with the second objective once I accomplish that.”
Yang also thanked his fans.
“It feels great as a player when fans are very supportive. I can feel that on the pitch [here], and appreciate a lot. I haven’t been here for so long but will try my best to meet fans’ expectations, especially in terms of the result.”
Thanks to his brilliant performance at Pohang, a lot of fans K League fans miss him. When asked about his future, he answered: “I have not thought of future yet. I am here in Japan now, and the system for players to play football has been built well here. I would like to stay here for a long time.
“I will still prepare myself for the time when I go back to Korea so that I can still put in a good performance.”
The 34-year-old forward mentioned retirement is currently not in his plan.
“Retirement is not determined by age. A lot of clubs, especially in Korea, invest in young players to make profits in the future instead of finding veterans.
“I am confident veterans can show good performances on the ground, as you cannot play with young spirit only; expertise can make it better.”