Park Ji-Sung: No unsung hero

Jo Tilley sings out in praise of Manchester United's South Korean midfielder.

    Park helped Manchester United take command in midfield at Old Trafford against Chelsea [EPA]

    After Park Ji-Sung's threaded pass to Javier Hernandez helped Manchester United on their way to their 19th English Premier League title on Sunday, a number of publications described the Korean powerhouse as an unsung player.  

    It's not the first time the player has been described in this way.

    In fact, Park Ji-Sung has been unsung for far too long, and by far too many, for this portrayal to make sense anymore.

    Known as "Three Lungs" to his teammates, Park is a phenomenon in South Korea and over the last few seasons has rightfully earned considerable praise from the British press and Manchester United fans.

    Along with his many crucial goals for United, Park is widely recognised as the greatest footballer to ever come out of South Korea. He has been invaluable in helping build up United's presence in Asia and has a fan club with over 100,000 paid-up members.

    Park has broken countless records in his career so far; he is the first Korean to win the English Premier League, to play in the European Champions League final, as well as being the first player to represent South Korea in three World Cups.

    He's also been a driving force behind United's success so far this season and yet he is still dogged by the unsung tag. A label that is neither insulting nor particularly complimentary. 

    Instead of describing Park as unsung, what journalists should be saying is, 'My goodness that Park is so fantastic we should hold an annual "We love Park" event every year to celebrate the fact.'

    But sarcasm aside, it does beg the question; what do commentators mean when they describe a player of Park's quality as unsung?


    Unsung players seem to be defined by their work ethic, superb passing and dribbling abilities and, perhaps crucially, a lack of flamboyance on and off the pitch.

    Park has proved himself a player for big occasions [GALLO/GETTY]

    Instead of falling out of nightclubs, driving five Bentleys and shouting their mouths off at any given opportunity, these unsung stars quite often live a life as unremarkable as yours or mine.

    Except with a lot more money.

    "Unsung" players such as Park, Fulham's Clint Dempsey, West Ham's Scott Parker and Aston Villa's Stewart Downing are usually well disciplined, respectful of officials and admired by their peers.

    When we talk of unsung players, we really speak of excellent footballers who have little other than their football skills to interest the British media.

    Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes - one of the best midfielders of the century - has been portrayed as underrated throughout his illustrious career, whilst simultaneously he has been described by Alex Ferguson, Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham and Luis Figo as one of the best midfielders of the century.

    We scratch our heads with wonder.

    I doubt Scholes has ever been underrated in his professional field. It's more likely the media latched on to the underrated term because Scholes is a quiet ginger lad who values family and privacy more than models and Moet.

    In a similar way, Park Ji-Sung remains unsung because his first language isn't English and he doesn't talk too much.

    While Ferguson talks, Park plays.

    To accurately describe a player we must judge them on what they have achieved and how much they might be worth in the transfer market, not on the column inches they generate in comparison to Wayne Rooney.

    Park Ji-Sung, or a Scholes in his hay-day, would not be unsung in any January transfer window were they available.  

    Perhaps the player most fondly remembered for being unsung is Manchester United defender Denis Irwin.

    The Irishman was an incredibly reliable fullback who was fundamental in helping Manchester United to secure seven league titles and a Champions League victory in 1999.

    Irwin played solid football; he didn't tippy tap around like Cristiano Ronaldo or use his studs as a weapon like Roy Keane. Irwin, and what I presume is his illicit love child, John O'Shea, are great footballers who are not quite interesting enough to be "sung".

    When it comes to Park Ji-Sung the big question is: how many references to being unsung must he have before he can be officially ordained as "sung".

    Let’s all start singing from the same hymn sheet.

    It may look rather nice in print, but "unsung Park Ji-Sung" has had his day.

    The man that remains - Park Ji-Sung - will have many, many more. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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