“I think the coach woke me up, and I grew a lot while studying soccer under him.” Two years ago, Ahn Young-gyu, the ‘defensive nucleus’ of Gwangju FC in the K League 1, was not a player who was mentioned as one of the best defenders in the league. His spot as a starting defender was in jeopardy. Playing for Seongnam FC in the 2021 season, Ahn made 21 appearances and barely made the starting lineup after September of that year, as he lost ground to Ma Sang-hoon (Hong Kong Rangers) and Kwon Kyung-won (Gamba Osaka).After the 2021 season, Ahn became a free agent and joined Gwangju, who had just been relegated to the second division .Named captain in his first year with head coach Lee Jung-hyo, Ahn led Gwangju to the K League 2 title .It wasn’t just any championship. Clinching promotion with the most games remaining in the second division, Gwangju also broke the all-time record for most points (86) .Captain Ahn Young-gyu was honored as the K League 2 Most Valuable Player (MVP) for his epic season.
It’s the highest honor he’s earned in his 11th season as a professional since joining Suwon Samsung in 2012.This season, he was a finalist for MVP in the first division. He will compete with Kim Young-kwon (Ulsan), Zeca (Pohang), and Tiago (Daejeon) for the honor .Ahn’s credentials include the fewest goals conceded this season. Promoted Gwangju, along with Jeonbuk Hyundai, have conceded just 35 goals in 38 matches .Ahn, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise as a player since turning 30, credits meeting Lee with changing the course of his career. “He helped me grow a lot,” Ahn told reporters in the joint press area after the team’s 0-0 draw against Pohang Steelers in the final 38th round of the Hana OneQ K League 1 2023 at Gwangju Football Stadium on Wednesday. “He gave me a lot of confidence. I grew up while trying to understand his soccer,” he said, adding, “I think he woke me up.” “It’s not that I’m physically stronger than other players, or that I’m faster,” Ahn said. But I’ve been playing with the idea that I have my own strengths, and thanks to meeting the coach, I’m more prepared for that part.”
Ahn was more disappointed than pleased with the fact that Jeonbuk tied for the fewest goals conceded .”We were able to achieve the lowest number of goals by ourselves, but as a defender, I feel a lot of regret for conceding goals when we shouldn’t have,” he said. Born in 1989, Ahn is a seasoned veteran of the professional ranks, but he has yet to play in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (ACL).With Gwangju finishing the season in third place, Ahn now has the opportunity to compete against Asian players. Gwangju punched their ticket to the Champions League Elite (ACLE) Playoffs (PO). If they lose in the PO, they will receive a ticket to the Champions League 2 (ACL2).”I’m happy to have this opportunity,” said Ahn Young-gyu. As a player myself, I always wanted to play in the ACL,” said Ahn, “and now that dream 스포츠토토존 has become a reality. Once again, Woo