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Facing S. Korea in Seoul dream come true moment for naturalized Singaporean footballer

Nov. 15, 2023 - 19:49 By Yonhap

Song Ui-young, a South Korean-born midfielder for the Singaporean men's national football team, speaks at a press conference at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul, Nov. 15, 2023. (Yonhap)

Football player Song Ui-young grew up in South Korea hoping to one day play at Seoul World Cup Stadium, considered the mecca of football here.

That dream will come true for the 30-year-old on Thursday, but with a twist. Song, who became naturalized as a Singaporean citizen in August 2021, will represent his adopted country against his native country in their World Cup qualifying match.

"I dreamed of being here when I first started playing football as a kid. I am excited and nervous at the same time," Song said at his prematch press conference at the stadium Wednesday. "I am sure a lot of other young players harbor the same dream. Even though I am here as an opposing player, I am grateful for the opportunity to play in front of Korean fans in this stadium."

Song was born in Incheon, west of Seoul, and left for Singapore at 18 to pursue his professional career there. He has logged time with clubs in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, and acquired his Singaporean citizenship two years ago. The midfielder has since collected 20 caps for them.

"It is a huge honor to represent a country. I remember feeling really nervous in my first match for Singapore, and I had to figure out things I could do for Singapore," Song said. "I feel more comfortable now with a few matches under my belt. I've developed close relationships with coaches and teammates. I feel like I am really a part of this team."

Singapore had to beat Guam in a playoff to reach the second round of the World Cup qualifying tournament and set up a date with South Korea.

"My relatives here kept telling me I had to win that match and come play in Korea. They put a lot of pressure on me," Song said. "And I never imagined I would play at this stadium. I am very thankful, and I want to show Korean fans how competitive I am as a player and we are as a team."

At No. 155 in the latest FIFA rankings, Singapore will be a heavy underdog against 24th-ranked South Korea. Song admitted he and his teammates are nervous about facing South Korea, and he's been giving his guys whatever tips he could on South Korea.

"We've been watching videos and analyzing key players for Korea," Song said. "I've told my teammates that South Korean players are really skilled. But it's one thing to hear about them, and quite another to play against them on the field. We have to make quick adjustments." (Yonhap)