Gimcheon Sangmu midfielder Lee Young-jae believes that K League 1 class will shine through eventually against Daejeon Hana Citizen. The two meet in the second leg of the Promotion-Relegation Playoff this Saturday to fight it out for a place in K League 1 next season but Gimcheon trail by two goals to one on aggregate..
Q: How were you feeling heading into the playoffs?
A: "The mentality we have heading into the playoffs is of course one of making sure we do not get relegated for the fans. We’re going into the two games wanting to win them both and winning those games is all we are thinking about. We need to make sure that we don't disappoint our fans.
"To be honest, a relegation playoff is not something we want to have to go through. But whichever way you look at it, at this point, we’ve got ourselves into this position and because that’s on us (our responsibility), we have to take the mindset into the playoffs that we have to live up to the Gimcheon Sangmu fans expectations and do what we can to make sure we don’t disappoint them."
Q: Your military service ends next June so you'll still be with the club next year, do you think the players whose service ends in December care as much as others about avoiding relegation?
A: "Yes, of course. The players who are about to be discharged from military duty and the rest of us, we have a strong mental attitude, we want to keep going until the end to make sure Gimcheon Sangmu don’t get relegated. And, I think all the players are thinking like that because they don’t want to get relegated."
Q: Wouldn't it be more enjoyable to play in K League 2? You win more games and you could get a K League 2 championship medal.
A: "Well, I mean, that would be true but players want to play in a higher league. We want to stay in K League 1 and the more talented players who are used to playing at the top end of K League 1, for them it doesn’t matter about ranking or winning, they have an individual desire to play in K League 1."
Q: This Sangmu team is filled with quality players, how is it in this position?
A: "When I look at it, we are a team that represents the K League in a way and that’s a great honour for me to be in that position. You can’t play with these players forever, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll play with them again in the future and so I count myself very fortunate and a blessing to be able to play for Gimcheon Sangmu with such a talented group of players."
Q: Did you have a preference between Daejeon or Anyang or Gyeongnam and if so, what reason?
A: "Well, I mean, I have been watching K League 2 but to be honest whichever team it is that we were going to face, we’re the K League 1 team and so we are confident that we can win the game. Whether it was Daejeon or Anyang or Gyeongnam, it doesn’t matter too much. We know we have to be confident that we are going to win. All those teams have their strong points but we’ll do our best to counter them and get the win that we need."
Q: Finally, what message do you have for the Gimcheon fans?
A: "Gimcheon Sangmu started the season with high expectations. And going from that and the position in the table the fans wanted, now we weren’t able to reach that for them, we will keep going until the end. The players will face up to responsibility and make sure we don’t get relegated. Thank you for supporting us until the end. Thank you for always coming to watch us, even though we have been low down in the table, and supporting us passionately. We’ll try our best until the end. Thank you."