Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lee feeling at Home in Singapore

While players often take a while to settle down in a foreign country and at a different club, it's clear that - 14 games into life at the Bishan Stadium and with six goals to his name already - 35-year-old Korean international Lee Kwan-woo is enjoying life in his new home.

Granted, it has not been the best of seasons so far for the Protectors as they are currently fourth on the table.

Still, with over half of the regular campaign gone, there have been many positives to take for Home.

For one, the defence which had been so vulnerable last term has looked steady with the arrivals of new captain Noh Rahman and Sirina Camara, while consistent displays from the likes of Nor Azli and Masrezwan Masturi has justified the club's decision to retain them.

With established defenders Juma'at Jantan and Sevki Sha'ban still finding fitness after injury layoffs, one expects the Protectors backline can only get stronger in the coming weeks.

Further up the field, old boys like Indra Sahdan Daud and Firdaus Idros have combined well with new signings Jordan Webb and Hafiz Rahim to add a new level of potency to their side's attack, but there's no denying the star of the show at the Bishan Stadium so far has been Lee.

Although he has made a name for himself as a playmaker over a decade a playing in the K-League, the Seoul native has been deployed as a striker to good effect and is currently the league's joint fourth-highest scorer.

Nonetheless, Lee, who is said to enjoy a good relationship with all of his team-mates, insists his main focus remains on the team's performance, rather than individual accolades.

"As an attacker, I've managed to get amongst the goals but that's not my main focus. Home United have not been [S.League] champions for a long time and I want to continue working towards that.

"A lot of players were changed from last season and it takes time to get to know one another. That's why it took us awhile to get going in the first three to four games.

"But we haven't had a game where we were beaten convincingly, which is why I'm very confident about our level of performance.

"We are currently fourth but I'm not going to lose my target [of winning the title]. We will try our best and I remain very confident."

Interestingly, Home have been victorious every time Lee has scored so far this season and some of them have been convincing wins over Balestier Khalsa, Tanjong Pagar United and Woodlands Wellington.

But when asked which game has particularly stood out for him this season, he curiously picked out the 2-1 defeat to Albirex Niigata (S) in the second week, much to the bemusement of his coach Lee Lim-saeng, who was acting as translator for the interview.

"The most memorable game so far for me was the loss to Albirex," Lee explained. "I feel that it's very difficult to play against them.

"We had drawn [0-0] against DPMM FC in the first game and in the second game against Albirex, I think it was my best performance.

"Also, if we had won that game, I think we would be in a much better position and the team would be higher in morale. That's why that's the game that stands out."

Off the field, the Home No. 13 also expressed satisfaction at how he's adjusted to life in Singapore and revealed he's already developed a bit of a hobby since moving over.

"I've done a few things in my spare time," he added. "I've met with the people from the people from the Korean Association [in Singapore] and I've been watching plenty of European football on the television.

"I've been trying to find good local food. I like yong tau foo [stuffed beancurd], I went to Geylang to eat frog once and I've been going back since because I like it.

"Plus, I also like durian."

While the significant number of Koreans in Singapore has clearly helped Lee settle in Singapore, his presence has also afforded his fellow countrymen the chance to watch one of their heroes in action on a weekly basis.

And the former Suwon Bluewings captain is appreciative of the support they have given him, with the stands regularly littered with dozens of Korean fans whenever he takes to the field.

"When I played in the K-League, there were so many local fans watching the games," Lee revealed. "This is the first time I've seen Koreans overseas.

"It's a different feeling and I appreciate their support. Hopefully, they will continue to support the team throughout the season."

Lee won 13 caps for South Korea throughout his career and was named in the K-League Best XI on three occasions before deciding to join Home.

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