Exclusive: Matt McKay on Life, Football and Making the Move to the ROK
From Aussie Player of the Year to Ranger FC in Scotland, midfielder Matt McKay has now landed in Busan with the K-League IPark squad. The past year has been an interesting one for McKay, but through the good and bad, he's managed to stay in top form on the pitch.
BUSAN, South Korea -- Australian Matt McKay has made an immediate impact for the Busan IPark since his addition to the club this spring. The 1.71m Brisbane-born midfielder joined the club from the Rangers in Scotland, a time which was disappointing to say the least.
The 29-year-old also led the Brisbane Roar to the their first ever A-League championship and premiership in the 2010-11 season, as well as capturing the Aussie Footballer of the Year last year.
Haps caught up with McKay recently to talk about his move to the K League, his time with the Rangers and his thoughts on Korean and Australian football.
How's your adjustment been to the K League so far? What are the main differences from other leagues you've played in?
The K League is very demanding. I have found every game a different challenge. Most teams press really hard and are very physical and I have enjoyed that aspect.
Most foreign players have some difficulty adjusting to the Korean style of training. Do you think the excessive training style is too much, or that it has improved your fitness?
Initially I found the training very hard. But my body has adjusted now and mentally I am ready for training and games.
What do you consider is your role with the squad? Can you bring leadership and experience though the other players may not understand you because of the language barrier?
Being one of the more senior players I feel a responsibility to help. Even though I cannot speak Korean I like to think I get my point across to them as to what I want. But to be honest, the coaches are very thorough and cover every aspect of games and have us ready each week.
Speaking of the language barrier, do you have any problems communicating with the players and coaches?
It has been the biggest challenge since I arrived. I find it difficult but get on with it and pick up what is wanted of me.
What do you think the IPark’s chances are to bring some hardware home this year?
We just want to be prepared for every game and I think if we do that and play with the right attitude we will challenge up the top of the league this season.
After all the saga with the transfer to IPark, do you feel that you were unfairly treated at Rangers?
I was very fortunate to receive an opportunity to come to IPark. With the Rangers entering administration, I felt it was a good time to leave. I wish I had more of a chance in Scotland as I thought I could have brought my own qualities to the team. However, I hope for the players sake that the club survives and the players that do remain have more success in the future.
What are your remaining ambitions with football?
My main focus now is IPark and Australia's qualification for the World Cup. It's every footballer's dream to represent their country at a World Cup, and we have eight games to win to get there.
What is the football scene like in Korea compared to Australia?
Football in both Australia and Korea has to compete with other sports for the limelight. It’s growing in both countries and continuing success for the national teams will help the game grow.
How do you think the present state of the Socceroos is at the moment? And how does it look for the future?
The Socceroos are in a good position at the moment. We have a grueling qualification phase ahead but our team is strong. There is a good dynamic in the team with the experienced players and the younger players that have been progressing and pushing for spots. The competition is good and we have the depth to get through the next eight games.
How did it feel to win the Aussie Footballer of the Year, and what kind of confidence did it give you as a player?
I was lucky that I was a part of two great teams last season. A successful Asian Cup was followed by the A-league title with Brisbane. I just really enjoyed my football and confidence was a big part of that. I had two incredible coaches that helped improve my game.
Club: Busan IPark
Born: Brisbane, Australia
International Caps: 23
For complete coverage of the Busan I'Park, check out their English homepage.
Read more from Jeff Liebsch