In the aftermath of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the eyes of the world have moved from Qatar back to Europe. The continent’s top five leagues are all gearing up for a return to action, while the English Premier League is already back underway.
But if we look back to this winter’s showdown in the desert, there were a number of nations that took the tournament by storm. We all remember Morocco’s march to the semifinals and Japan’s stunning victories over Germany and Spain. But South Korea’s progression from the group stages was equally impressive.
After being drawn alongside Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, two-time winners Uruguay and 2010 quarterfinalists Ghana, many didn’t give the Taegeuk Warriors much hope. That sentiment was echoed by OddsChecker, which compares football odds and free bets. The comparison website made Portugal and Uruguay the favorites to progress from Group H. But a last-minute winner from Hwang Hee-chan against Ronaldo and co. ensured that the Koreans finished as runner-up, ahead of Uruguay on goals scored.
The new South Korean football system doesn’t get underway until February, but excitement is already palpable in the country, following their compatriots’ exploits in the Arabian Gulf this winter. One city where excitement couldn’t be higher is in Busan.
A sleeping giant
Busan IPark, based in Busan, South Korea, is one of the most successful football teams in the history of the K League. Founded in 1983, the team has seen a great deal of success over the years, highlighted by several K League championships and other domestic and international trophies.
Busan IPark began life in 1983 as Yukong Elephants and was one of the founding members of the K League, where they remained up until their relegation in 2015. Throughout its 40-year history, the team has become a household name in South Korea. They’ve won the K League on four separate occasions, as well as picking up one FA Cup and three League Cups.
The team has also seen success in international competition, winning the Asian Club Championship in 1985–86 and the Afro-Asian Club Championship in 1986. Busan IPark also reached the semifinals in the Asian Champions League in their most recent foray onto the continent in 2005.
The team’s most successful period was in the 1980s and early 1990s when they won four K League championships. They also won the Champions League in 1986, the club’s crowning moment. Further success would follow in the 2000s, with the club winning the FA Cup in 2004. During this period, Busan IPark became known for its attacking style of play and its ability to score goals.
Some of the most notable players to have worn the Busan IPark jersey over the years include striker Choi Yong-soo, who scored over 100 goals for the team and was the League MVP in 2001; midfielder Kim Do-Heon, who was part of the team in the 1990s; and forward Lee Chun-soo, who scored over 80 goals for the team and was the K League MVP in 2003.
Busan IPark has been one of the most successful teams in the K League, and their trophy haul is a testament to their quality over the years. In recent years, however, the club has fallen by the wayside.
Last season, they finished second bottom in the Korean football league’s basement division. And if it wasn’t for a run of three consecutive wins in their final three games, they would have ended up with the wooden spoon, an honor that went to Jeonnam Dragons in the end. Despite avoiding the bottom spot, the 2022 campaign still marked the worst finish in the history of the club, and they will be hoping to make considerable improvements in 2023.
They have already made nine signings in the close season, including the arrival of talented Brazilian Bruno Lamas who arrived from top-flight club Daegu FC. The Busan faithful will be hoping that he can lead them to greener pastures next year.