Saturday 23 September 2017

Former Manchester United star Park Ji-sung reveals sports management ambitions

Park Ji-sung is a firm favourite with Manchester United fans
Park Ji-sung is a firm favourite with Manchester United fans

Park Ji-sung may have hung up his boots but his work ethic remains , with the Manchester United fans' favourite now determined to take his first steps into the world of sports management.

The dynamic midfielder ingratiated himself to the Old Trafford faithful during seven successful years at the club, winning four Premier League titles, the Champions League and a Club World Cup.

Park left United in 2012 and, two years later, persistent knee problems forced him to retire at the age of 33, turning the South Korea international's focus to life away from the field.

Not keen to coach, the 36-year-old took a different route and is now just weeks away from finishing an International MA in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport, run by the Swiss Centre International d'Etude du Sport.

"After I retired, I am thinking 'what should I do?'" Park told Press Association Sport.

"I want to still be involved in football, but I don't want to be a coach or manager, so then there's the sports management side.

"I decided to be on the management side but then I had to think 'what shall I do, what shall I learn?'

"I realised that I need to study what kind of things are happening around the sport or in football. I've enjoyed it.

"It is hard to study again but I learned a lot of things through this course."

The year-long course started at De Montfort University in Leicester before going on to Milan and ending at the University of Neuchatel, where Park is now completing his last module.

The former QPR player has been studying for a future he wants to spend behind the scenes like former United team-mate Edwin van der Sar, who has risen to become chief executive at Ajax.

"That kind of path," Park said of Van der Sar, who he won the Champions League alongside in 2008. "I spoke with Edwin and he advised me something as well. It's quite the same scenario as Edwin."

Park, a club ambassador at United, is keen to take a similar route, but has not picked up the phone to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to enquire about opportunities at Old Trafford.

"No, not yet," he said with a laugh. "But actually I want to have more experience in Europe because still the system, organisation-wise, Europe is better. I want to have some experience here.

"One day probably I will go back to my country or Asia to use my skills and to try and develop our football generally in Asia.

"But after this course, I want to stay in Europe to learn more things here, to improve myself, to develop myself in the future."

Before Park's studies finish in mid-July comes the small matter of lining up at the Nou Camp.

The former PSV Eindhoven star will play for Manchester United Legends against their Barcelona counterparts on June 30, before going toe-to-toe again at Old Trafford on September 2.

All money raised from the second leg will help the Manchester United Foundation's work in the local community, with previous matches against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich raising more than £1.8million.

"The Camp Nou is a great stadium and it will be good to go there and play again against Barcelona with a Man United shirt," Park said, before joking that fans should not expect to see him running around as much as before.

"It will be fun, enjoyable. Everyone is retired, it's more relaxed, so it is more enjoyable from the fans as well.

"Man United had the 2013 and 2015 legends match against great clubs like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

"It helps raise important money to help children so hopefully we can raise a lot of money to help them.

"I am really happy to be one of those players raising money and, from a player's side, it will be fun to see old team-mates and play the legends players."

:: Tickets for the second leg between Manchester United Legends and Barcelona Legends on September 2 are on sale now at www.manutd.com/legendsareback

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