“This day comes because I don’t give up, I will run like the youngest”

“This is the kind of day you get when you don’t give up.”

Wearing his first Korean flag on his chest, Lee Min-kyu, 34, of Ulsan, Ulsan, South Korea, was overwhelmed with excitement.

“It took me a long time to get to this point,” he told reporters at Ulsan Munsu Stadium on Wednesday. Honestly, there were many moments when I wanted to give up, but I’m proud of myself because I think my hard work has paid off,” he laughed.

A day earlier, on Nov. 11, Lee was named to the 23-man squad for the two-game series against Thailand (Nov. 21-25) in the second Asian qualifying round for the 2026 North and Central American World Cup. He became the youngest player in South Korean soccer history (33 years, 333 days) to be named to the national team.

A goal-scorer who came into his own in his 30s, Lee has never lost his place as the K League 1’s top goalscorer (22 goals in 2022 and 17 goals in 2023) since becoming the first player to do so with Jeju United in 2021.

Nevertheless, In Jong-kyu hasn’t been able to connect with the Taeguk Mark. Both Paulo Bento and Jürgen Klinsmann, who were in charge of the national team when he was in his prime, turned their backs on him.

Recalling that time, Lee said, “Actually, as an athlete, I can handle it. My family was very hurt,” he said, adding, “Every parent thinks their child is the best, and every wife says her husband is the best. I’m sorry for that, but I didn’t give up and kept going one day at a time, and now I have a good day like this,” he laughed.

“I’m 33 years and 333 days old, and my wife jokes that I’m the oldest brother, but I’m number one, so I try to feel good about it. It would have been nice to be younger, but I’m just grateful that they picked me at this age.”

What made him even happier was the news that came with his 메이저사이트 selection to the national team: “You are the only player to score more than 50 goals in the K League 1 in the last three years. I don’t need to explain anymore,” Hwang said at the press conference.

“I was happy that he recognized me when I was disappointed, thinking, ‘How can I get into the national team?’ I also felt that other soccer players should have hope because they can fulfill their dreams if they don’t give up,” he said.

Lee is looking forward to the day when he starts training with the national team on the 18th. A veteran in terms of age, he is a newcomer to the national team with no playing experience.

“In the national team, it’s all about the desire to play hard,” he says, vowing to play as if he were the youngest.

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