South Korean soccer prodigy Kim Young-gyu made his debut in the Spanish Primera Liga Monday by playing for Almeria in its home opener against Villarreal FC.
The 18-year-old winger, dubbed “Kiu” by Spanish media, was put in the game 38 minutes into the second half and clocked 10 minutes. Kim demonstrated his quickness and agility and even obtained a free kick from the opposition.
His team fell to Villarreal 3-2.
Kim was with Almeria’s reserve team until recently, but was called up just before the first game of the season. Local media highlighted the expectations for the youthful player; Spanish news website Marca.com called Kim the “principal novedad (main novelty)” of manager Francisco Javier Rodriguez’s new squad.
Last season, Rodriguez -- then coach of the reserve team -- confirmed his confidence in Kim by giving him ample playing time.
Before Kim, three other South Koreans played in Spain’s top league, but none of them emerged as a solid player. Most recently, former national team captain Park Choo-young played for Celta Vigo in 2012-13, but only managed to register two goals in the course of the regular season.
Experts, however, point out that all of those players went to Spain as an adult and had difficulties adjusting to the country’s lifestyle and culture. It is a completely different story for “Kiu,” who went to Spain in 2009 at the age of 14, and has been attending local school since.
In a recent interview with local media, Kim expressed his excitement about the prospect of playing in the Spanish league.
“Getting a game in the ‘Primera’ would be a dream, because it is a huge challenge for a South Korean,” he said. “I have to keep learning and I should try to shoot more often, but I’m getting there bit by bit.”
By Yoon Min-sik and news reports