Incheon United’s stalwart captain Oh Ban-seok (35) is dreaming of a bigger dream with coach Cho Sung-hwan (53).
Incheon had a dream-like year last season. They finished 4th in the league and won the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL) ticket for the first time in the club’s history. It was truly ‘Cho Seong-hwan Magic’.
Incheon, who is dreaming of a bigger dream for the 2023 season, had a fruitful winter. They embraced Jerso, who led the Jeju attack, and Shin Jin-ho, the key player in Pohang’s midfield, and also brought striker Mpoku from Tottenham and Seong-Hoon Chun from Augsburg. Here, Ji Eon Hak, Jeong Dong Yoon, and Moon Ji Hwan all returned after serving in the military.
Oh Ban-seok, who will lead them as captain, attended the 2023 K-League Winter Field Training 7th Media Camp press conference held at the Changwon International Hotel on the afternoon of the 14th and met with reporters. He expressed his excitement, “We have reached the end of winter training. It was the most satisfying winter training in my career as a player. I am well prepared. Like the fans, I am looking forward to the season.”
Oh Ban-seok added, “There are no injuries. No one, including me, was hurt. The intensity and contents of the training are satisfactory. Now, only the last practice game remains. If we play well, there will be no major problems with the season.”
Oh Ban-seok suffered a knee ligament injury last summer and was unable to play for several months. He opted for rehab instead of surgery and was able to return at the end of the season. As he quickly returned to the arena, will there be any aftermath? Fortunately, Ban-seok Oh said with strength, “There are no aftereffects. He wants to be more helpful to the team this year by doing even the parts he couldn’t play last year.”
Oh Ban-seok takes over the captain’s armband again this year. He only played 13 league games last season due to various injuries, but coach Cho Seong-hwan’s belief remains unchanged.
Oh Ban-seok, who has been captain for the second season only in Incheon, said, “I always have a sense of responsibility. There will be. The team atmosphere is really healthy and good. It’s my job to maintain this atmosphere well. If you do that, you can expect good results.”
Shin Jin-ho, who held a press conference earlier, said that the team atmosphere is really good. He said, “The players are having a lot of fun,” and said, “If the atmosphere is as good as it is now, we can win the championship.”
When talking about the team atmosphere, Oh Ban-seok said, “It’s not an atmosphere of laughing and talking like haha, hoho. It’s an atmosphere of doing it when you’re playing. As the gap between players has narrowed a lot, the sense of competition has increased. Besides training, I also spend a lot of time with my colleagues. Naturally, the team atmosphere improved,” he said with a smile.
At the same time, Shin Jin-ho joked, “Lee Myung-joo came to Incheon and told me to do it comfortably. But there is a little bit of an atmosphere where I can’t feel comfortable.” It was a part that reminded me of the training style of coach Cho Seong-hwan, who is famous for its high intensity.
However, Oh Ban-seok burst into laughter, saying that he had become much more comfortable. He said, “It’s been about 8 years since I worked with director Seonghwan Cho. I am very comfortable. He has become more harmful than before. As time goes by, he becomes more harmful and more comfortable. I think it is because Jinho is still adjusting. As a good player, I think I just need to play soccer comfortably here.”
Incheon also succeeded in renewing the contract with Delbridge, who had been together for two years. He perfectly adapted to the league last season and established himself as Incheon’s key central defender. This was the reason Incheon’s defense could not be shaken even when there was no Ban-seok Oh.
Oh Ban-seok said, “This is really good news. I liked Delbridge more than anyone else when he was selected for the Australian national team. I sincerely supported him to go to the World Cup (laughs).” Bridge is the best partner as a foreign defender. I think we can look forward to a good performance in Incheon in the future.”
However, he gave me one homework. Oh Ban-seok said, “But I hope I can score well from set pieces like me. Last year, Delbridge didn’t score a goal.” Only then can the team’s performance go up. I’m training intensively.”
Previously, coach Cho Seong-hwan expressed his wish that Incheon would have more players on board for each age group and national team A. Who is the leading candidate in the opinion of national team senior Oh Ban-seok?
He said, “Last year, I hoped that players Lee Myeong-ju and Shin Jin-ho would go to the World Cup out of fan spirit. The two are now old (laughs). “I hope Kim Bo-seop will try. If so, there is nothing that raises the level of the team as quickly as that. I think a national team player should come out quickly within the team.”
Oh Ban-seok added, “From the point of view안전놀이터 of a central defender, I think Kim Dong-min has enough potential. Considering the save rate, goalkeeper Kim Dong-heon is also possible. All four of them are from youth, so it will be all the more meaningful for Incheon.”
Incheon only has a lot of veteran players. There are three players who are the same age as Oh Ban-seok, born in 1988: Shin Jin-ho, Yeoreum, and Kwon Jin-jin. Here are Kim Jun-yeop, born in 1989, and Lee Myung-joo, born in 1990.
Oh Ban-seok said, “That’s how it happened (laughs). There are players who are at most 16 years old. I think it’s lucky to play soccer on the same team with peers.” I want to show the fans what I want to do. That’s my responsibility. As a veteran, my skills may decline, but I think I can improve more.”
What are your personal goals for this season? When I asked Ban-seok Oh what goal he wanted to achieve, the answer that came back was ‘team performance’. He showed a captain-like aspect, saying, “If you put down your individual goals and focus on team performance, individual glory will naturally follow. The seniors know it well.”
He added that he just wanted to score for his newborn child. Oh Ban-seok said, “If there is one goal, it is a goal. A child was born last month. I want to score a goal for my child and wife and help the team.” He smiled shyly.
Finally, Oh Ban-seok vowed to shake off the question mark that still lingers on the team called Incheon. He said, “Unconditionally, we must achieve better results than last year. This year is a really important year for Incheon.” I can step up. I want to erase the remaining question marks.”
In addition, Oh Ban-seok emphasized that he would like to hear the word ‘BIG 4 Incheon’ rather than ‘survival king Incheon’. He concluded the interview by saying, “The CEO said he definitely wants to be in the Big 4. The director also thinks that we have to achieve a grade equivalent to 4th. I also want to be called the Big 4.