Ulsan Hyundai’s Kim Young-kwon stood in his honor as the most valuable player in professional soccer for the 2023 season and was momentarily speechless.
As he struggled to catch his breath, his wife, watching from the bottom of the podium, silently wiped away tears.
“Honey, I think this trophy…(is) a trophy of all your sweat and hard work. Thank you for raising our children so beautifully, and thank you for making me such a wonderful soccer player,” Kim said with emotion.
Kim was named the K League 1 Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the Hana OneQ K League 2023 Grand Award Ceremony held at Lotte Hotel World in Songpa-gu, Seoul on April 4.
He was recognized for his contribution to Ulsan’s second consecutive K League 1 title. It is the first time in two years that a central defender has won the MVP award since Hong Jeong-ho (Jeonbuk) in 2021.
With 103 caps for his country, including three World Cup appearances at Brazil 2014, Russia 2018, and Qatar 2022, Kim was honored with the highest honor for a professional soccer player.
At a press conference after the award ceremony, Kim said, “I tried to live a family life as much as possible, but it didn’t work out. While playing soccer, I neglected my home, and my wife had a lot of work to do alone because I couldn’t pay attention to household chores,” he said, explaining his ‘tearful emotions’.
“But I could see that she was working for me without showing any signs of it, and I think I cried because I remembered that,” he added.
“My wife said, ‘I need to do better next year,’ and I felt responsible. Everyone says, ‘You have to listen to your wife to have a peaceful home,’ and I feel like I need to work harder.”
Director Hong Myung-bo took up almost as much of Kim’s acceptance speech as his wife.
“There was a time when I wasn’t playing well this season, and I remember what coach (Hong Myung-bo) told me,” Kim said on the podium. “When he said, ‘What if you can’t play one or two games,’ I felt like my stomach dropped and I was convinced that I could win the title this season.”
“I’m grateful to the coach for always taking care of the players. He always tells me that what I have done so far is just the past, but I will be a player who prepares for the future rather than the past.”
As the defending champions, it’s easy to imagine the pressure Ulsan’s players have been under.
In fact, during the press conference, Kim confessed that Hong was the one who steadied him when he received offers from teams in other leagues during the season.
“I’m human, so I wanted to go (to another team). But after meeting with the coach for two or three hours, I decided not to go,” he said, explaining that he learned a lot about making choices at a crucial time in his life through his experience.
“I have no regrets. The coach made me feel like it was a good decision to stay,” he said, adding, “Although I was disappointed with the monetary part, I was satisfied with the position of MVP, which I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
Kim’s remaining goals are to win the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup and the Champions League (ACL).
“I think winning the Asian Cup (which I haven’t accomplished yet) will be an important career milestone for me, and I joined Ulsan with the goal of winning the ACL,” Kim said, “I still have a chance this time. We will try to win all the remaining games to advance to the tournament and look up.”
Kim Young-kwon, who recently lost playing time to teammate Jung Seung-hyun in Jürgen Klinsmann’s national team, also expressed his desire to make a mark again.
“This is the beginning of the last page of my soccer career. I hope the fans will think, ‘This guy was serious about the national team,'” he said.
In his acceptance speech, Kim also thanked Chung Mong-kyu, the president of the Korea Football Association, who made a rare visit to the award ceremony.
“I would also like to thank the president of the Korean Football Association, Chung Mong-kyu, who is always working hard for Korean soccer and thinking about how to develop Korean soccer,” Kim said. 파워볼