Ji So-yun follows heart, comes home after illustrious career with Chelsea
INCHEON-- South Korean football star Ji So-yun returned home Thursday after wrapping up a wildly successful eight-year run with Chelsea FC Women in the Women's Super League
The 31-year-old spoke to reporters after arriving at Incheon International Airport and shared her hopes of continuing her career in the South Korean league while also focusing on helping the national team at next year's FIFA Women's World Cup.
The decision to leave Chelsea was announced at the end of April, with the teary Ji, in a video posted on the team's website, thanking her coaching staff, teammates and fans for their support.
Ji has never played club football in South Korea, and that will now change as she looks to land with a team in the semi-pro WK League.
The 2022 WK League season kicked off last month. Once she signs her deal in the coming days or weeks, Ji will be eligible to play after July 1.
"It hasn't hit me yet that I am back in Korea. I still feel like I should return to England once the summer arrives," Ji told reporters at the Airport, just west of Seoul. "I've been gone for a dozen years. I think a lot of Korean football fans have never seen me play in person. I wanted to play in front of them while I was still able to compete at a high level."
Ji made her club debut with INAC Kobe Leonessa in Japan in 2011 and transferred to Chelsea in January 2014.
Over the next eight years, Ji carved out one of the most illustrious careers by a foreign player ever in the English women's league.
Ji was named the Football Association (FA) Players' Player of the Year in her first season in England, and was the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Women's Players' Player of the Year for the 2014-2015 season. Ji made the PFA Team of the Year for five consecutive seasons, starting with the 2014-2015 campaign.
Ji lifted 13 trophies with Chelseas: six Super League titles, four FA Cups, two league cups and one Community Shield.
She scored 68 goals in 210 matches in all competitions for Chelsea. She is third on the club's all-time lists in both goals and matches.
She capped off her Chelsea run by helping them to a double this past season. They clinched their Super League title on May 8 and won their second consecutive FA Cup a week later.
Ji is also South Korea's all-time leading scorer, male or female, with 64 goals.
Ji said her decision to leave Chelsea wasn't a hasty one.
"I had a good season with Chelsea, but I'd been thinking about leaving for a long time," Ji said. "I wanted to concentrate on preparing for the World Cup next year. I had offers from three to four teams from the U.S., but my heart took me back to Korea."
The footballer said she will always look back on her Chelsea years fondly and added, "I'd like to see younger players (from Korea) test themselves overseas."
Ji will be going the other way, as she is poised to make her WK League debut this summer.
"Just because I've played in a foreign country, it doesn't mean I am going to play well in the WK League. Nothing is guaranteed," Ji said. "I am going to try my best to make a smooth transition, and I hope my teammates can help me along the way. I want to leave a positive impact on the WK League."
Source: Yonhap News Agency