What is success and what is failure? Is playing 20 games in 18 months for West Bromwich Albion, across the Championship and Premier League, a success or a failure?
“Some [people] told me I failed in England,” one-time Korean starlet Kim Do-heon told Football Channel Asia. “To them, it is a failure but for me it was a good opportunity to think about my football career.
“The time in England, it was [to] expand my thoughts about football. It was a great time for me.”
Kim moved to West Brom, initially on loan, in January 2008 after six seasons in the K-League, first with Suwon Bluewings and then Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma.
“It was a huge boost to me as a football player,” said Kim of his time in the West Midlands.
“Of course, there were differences in language, food and so forth. But to me, these are never an issue.”
Coming from Korea he was blown away by the all-consuming football culture of the UK.
“They have different surroundings,” he said. “In Korea, it is more strictly focused on the field. In England, it was more naturally embedded to your everyday life. Their public is in love with football as much as the players.”
It wasn’t just off the field where the differences between cultures were apparent.
“The team culture was mind blowing,” he said. “Players in England appeal to coaching staff during the game when they have something to complain [about]. The communication between players and coaching staff was fluent and natural, compared to Korean football culture.”
But for one reason or another, it didn’t work out. With a little more time Kim is confident he would have made an impact.
“If there was more time given to me, I [think I] could prove myself in England,” the 33-year-old said.
But after 18 months the love affair was over and he returned to Suwon, where he spent the first four years of his career. Ironically, just like the beginning of his career, after four seasons with the club he once again moved to Seongnam.
“I still have an affection to Suwon, because it was the first club where my professional career started.
“Training and playing with famous players just after starting my professional career, I was happy.
“I could dream and prepare for my future career. Training and being part of a successful team gives you an idea of what is a winning team.”
The Seongnam he returned to this year, however, is different to the one he started it, with the controversial Unification Church having given up ownership to the Seongnam City Government at the end of the 2013 season. But Kim is wary of making any comparisons between the two.
“I am mindful of making wrong perception,” he told Football Channel Asia.
“The better point is, we have got more fans in the stadium and it is encouraging for the players. Also it gives us a sense of unity to the city as more locals support us. We feel close to the fans.”
It’s been a successful start for the new incarnation of Seongnam, winning the FA Cup last year against all the odds, which qualified them for this year’s AFC Champions League.
Once again they proved the doubters wrong when they finished second behind Gamba Osaka in Group F, setting up a David vs Goliath battle in the Round of 16 against arguably Asia’s biggest club – Guangzhou Evergrande.
With the first leg locked at 1-1 deep into stoppage time, Seongnam were awarded a penalty, which Kim converted. Suddenly the impossible looked possible.
The fairytale wasn’t to have a happy ending however, with a Ricardo Goulart brace in the return leg breaking the hearts of Seongnam players and fans.
“It was disappointing,” he said of the result. “We wanted to beat Guangzhou Evergrande because they are a financially rich club with a strong team and we are a citizen club. It was a good chance to show how a low-budget team could get a result.”
“But we have got confidence after the narrow result, so our goal now is getting the highest position on the ladder so we can to participate in AFC Champions League again next year.”
Currently in third, ahead of the bigger corporate-backed teams such as FC Seoul and Pohang Steelers, that would be enough to earn qualification again.
Now that would be a success.