By Yoo Jee-ho
DOHA, Nov. 21 (Yonhap) -- From helping his club earn a promotion to the top South Korean league and being named to a FIFA World Cup team for the first time to marrying a K-pop star, defender Cho Yu-min has had a charmed year in 2022.
And the 26-year-old says he has had to work for everything and nothing was given to him. And he thanks his peers for inspiring him.
Cho was a member of South Korea's gold medal-winning team at the 2018 Asian Games. A few members of that team, such as defenders Kim Min-jae and Kim Moon-hwan, and midfielders Hwang In-beom and Hwang Hee-chan, went on to enjoy success both at club and international levels. All four made the World Cup team this year and none could be considered a surprise.
Cho, on the other hand, had been a forgotten man from the 2018 team. It took him another four years before he earned his first senior national team callup. He arrived in Qatar with just four caps to his credit.
Before a training session here Monday, Cho said he can pat himself on the back for having come a long way.
"I envied some of my teammates from the 2018 Asian Games, when they started playing for the senior team before I did," Cho said at Al Egla Training Site in Doha. "Their success was the biggest source of motivation. I pushed myself really hard because I wanted to play with them on the national team so badly. I have a ton of respect for these guys, and I am grateful that I have a chance to play for the country with them."
Cho sits low on the Korean center back depth chart and is unlikely to play much, if at all, barring injuries to mainstays such as Kim Min-jae, one of his Asian Games teammates. Cho said his biggest personal goal in Qatar is to play his way into the lineup.
"I don't know what kind of opportunity I'll have," Cho said. "But even if I only get to play one minute, I will try to sacrifice for the team."
Cho and former T-ara member Soyeon are now officially married, with the paperwork done on Nov. 1. They had initially planned to have the ceremony in November but that will now have to wait until after the World Cup.
"She has been the rock by my side. She told me she was proud of me for making the team here," Cho said. "She said I should try to savor every moment and have fun in Qatar."
And Cho has been among the loudest in training, trying to inject energy into sessions that could otherwise fall tedious.
"I think that's one of my strengths as a player. On every team I've played for, I've tried to keep the same approach," Cho said. "I just want to have a positive influence on the team."