Taegeuk mark’s dream top scorer in his 30s

When I congratulated Joo Min-gyu (33), who stood as the best scorer in professional soccer this year, the answer came out of the blue. At the K League 1 (division) award ceremony on Sunday, Joo Min-gyu was named the “Best 11” along with the top scorer, and got two gold medals. He scored 17 goals this season. He tied with Thiago, a Brazilian striker from Daejeon, but Joo Min-gyu, who played for less time, became the top scorer. As a result, Joo Min-gyu regained the top scorer title for the first time in two years since he became the top scorer in 2021 when he was playing for Jeju Island.

He also became the fifth player in the K-League to win the top scorer twice or more. In the 40-year history of professional soccer, only four players – Yoon Sang-cheol (1990/94), Lee Ki-geun (1988/91), Kim Do-hoon (2000/03), and Dejan (2011/12/13) – have been the top scorer twice or more. He also became the fourth Korean player in 20 years since Kim Do-hoon in 2003. “It is an honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with legendary seniors. Above all, I am glad that I have established the self-esteem of a Korean striker in the K-League where foreign strikers dominate,” said Joo Min-kyu.

After nine years of being unknown, Joo wrote a legendary story about his trainee days. After failing to receive a draft pick in the K-League in 2013, he joined Goyang HiFC, a secondary league team, as a trainee. His annual salary was only 20 million won (18,400 U.S. dollars). “I cried the most in my life after I failed the draft. Back then, I just wanted to stand on the ground. I was not in a position to decide the salary or the team I belonged to,” he confessed.

Joo Min-gyu did everything to survive. He volunteered for additional kick training after the match and did weight training to overcome physical struggle. When he moved to Seoul E-Land, the second division’s founding team, in 2015, he changed his position to a striker instead of a familiar midfielder. With his sophisticated kick and solid physique (1m83 centimeters tall and 82 kilograms), he dominated the second division by scoring 23 goals in his first season as a member of Seoul E-Land. In 2019, he joined Ulsan National League in the top division. 스포츠토토

However, the barriers to the first division were high. He eventually moved to Jeju in 2020 after being pushed out of the competition to become the starting pitcher. However, he was not frustrated. He was a senior at the team at the time, but went back to his initial stage and continued training. “When I was a trainee, my monthly salary was less than 1 million won (approx. I endured hard times and came here, and if this continues, I will regret it forever,” said Joo Min-gyu. “So I practiced even harder.”

Efforts were not betrayed. Making 22 goals in 2021, he became the top scorer of the main league in his dreams. He also scored 17 goals, the most in the league in 2022. However, he gave up the top scorer to Cho Kyu-sung (17 goals), who played for less time.

There is no sign that Joo Min-gyu’s heyday, which came late, will end. When he moved to Ulsan from Jeju, he also became the “best goalscorer” by scoring 17 goals this year. Ulsan won the league title for the second consecutive year for the first time in the club’s history. “I’m happy that I scored many goals, but I’m even happier because I lifted my first trophy in my first year as a member of Ulsan,” Joo Min-gyu said. “I hope that my hard work will motivate many trainees who dream of becoming a professional, saying, ‘That person is doing it, and I can do it.'”

This is not the end of his challenge. His next goal is to play in Asia. “Next year, I will not only win the league title and the top scorer but also the Asian Champions League title and the top scorer in competitions,” said Joo. “If I add a strategy name, it will be like ‘Ask and go double.'”

He also expressed his thoughts on the national flag, which he has never worn before. He reigned as the best striker in the K-League for the past three years, but has never made the national team roster. “Though he is thirty-three, he has not given up on his dream to be a member of the national team. I know well that luck will never kill him. I will do my best to make that dream come true with my skills,” he said.

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