Jong Tae-Se looks back on a frustrating but revealing 2011
By Jong Tae-Se
Translation by Dan Orlowitz
When I look back, 2011 was an incredibly difficult year. It began with the Asian Cup, and then we were eliminated from World Cup qualifying in the third round. I suffered a bad injury to my neck, and needed to have my ankle scoped. Then for a long time there was the emotional strain of a long scoreless run.
I’ve never gone without a goal for as long as this, so it was very tough. In particular, getting eliminated in World Cup qualifying had a huge impact on me; it was like all the light disappeared from my life. Even though we won against Japan [in Pyongyang], it didn’t matter much in the end.
To be completely honest, I wanted to advance to the final round of qualifying along with Japan. National team matches have a huge effect on me. They also teach me things about myself. Matches like the World Cup finals push you to your emotional limit when you play, reveal your strong and weak points … it’s just like the Hyperbolic Time Chamber in [popular Japanese animation] DragonBall. I don’t know whether or not I’ll be called up again, but as a player I want to play for the national team as long as possible.
There were also good things this year. After we changed managers and my knee healed I had more chances to play, I had my first hat-trick in Germany, and I was able to play against Bayern Munich. In the charity match that Park Ji-Sung held in Vietnam I was able to play with several legendary Japanese players, members of the South Korean national team, and even Jaejoong of [famous South Korean pop group] TXVQ. I strongly realised that I want to play on a stage as big as them someday.
But reality isn’t as optimistic, and overall it was a year full of trials and tribulations. In the first half of 2011 I didn’t want to take responsibility for my form, and sometimes I complained or blamed my troubles on my team-mates or my manager. But I realised that I couldn’t keep thinking like that, and that I couldn’t just run away when I wanted to give up. In the last half or the year I met my troubles head-on.
Although I scored a hat-trick, I didn’t accomplish too much after that. Despite that, thanks to my manager I was able to appear in most of our matches, and after taking time during the holiday break I’m feeling recharged.
As a player there’s nothing better than playing in a match. During the break I’ve had lots of delicious food and drinks, slept a lot, talked with friends, laughed hard while watching TV … and after spending time like this, I’m extremely grateful that I even had an opportunity to suffer all of those hardships this year.
North Korea can’t appear in the 2014 World Cup, so from now on I’ll focus on my club team for a few years, and work hard to raise my value on the pitch. I’ve been with Bochum for a year and a half, so when I go back to Germany it feels like I’m coming home. The environment, from my team-mates to the city, is a great place to live and play in. It upsets me when I come back to Japan and everyone speaks ill of Bochum. It’s my responsibility for not helping my team to win, but it’s upsetting to hear people blame my friends and team-mates.
To help Bochum earn promotion this season, I want to play harder and push myself further. Fans in Japan haven’t gotten much good news lately, but this year I want to help bring them some sunshine. I feel as energised as I was in college, and I feel like I’m still walking on the road to glory.