S. Korea int'l Hwang Ui-jo returns to K League on loan
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Feb. 5 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean international forward Hwang Ui-jo has returned to the K League, putting his disappointing European career on hold.
FC Seoul of the top-flight K League 1 announced Sunday they have acquired Hwang on a six-month loan from the Greek club Olympiacos FC.
Hwang, 30, last played in the K League for Seongnam FC in 2017, and signed with Gamba Osaka in Japan later that year to begin his overseas career.
The forward then joined FC Girondins de Bordeaux in France in July 2019. The club got relegated to the second division for this season, and Hwang left France after two matches to sign with the Premier League club Nottingham Forest in August 2022. Nottingham immediately loaned him to Olympiacos.
Hwang never found his footing in Greece, though. He did not score in 11 matches at all competitions while recording just one assist. His last league appearance came on Oct. 17 against PAOK.
Hwang also had a mediocre World Cup in Qatar last fall, after being one of South Korea's top offensive weapons for most of head coach Paulo Bento's four-year tenure. During the World Cup, Hwang was usurped by the rising star Cho Gue-sung in the starting lineup.
According to FIFA's regulations on transfers, players may only be registered with a maximum of three clubs and play official matches for two clubs during one season, if those clubs follow the same schedule.
Hwang has appeared in matches for Bordeaux and Olympiacos this season. Because both European leagues' seasons follow a dual-year schedule, from 2022 to 2023, Hwang was not eligible to play for another European side this season.
However, FIFA allows players to dress for a third club in the same season if that team's league follows a different schedule than the league for the two other clubs. Hwang was thus eligible to play in South Korea, where the K League season takes place within the same calendar year.
Major League Soccer clubs in the United States had also been linked with Hwang, but the forward chose to come home.
If Hwang can rediscover his scoring touch that helped him lead Bordeaux with 12 goals in the 2020-2021 season, he should help spark FC Seoul's anemic offense. In 2022, FC Seoul ranked second-to-last in the 12-team K League 1 with 43 goals in 38 matches.
Hwang will certainly be assured of regular playing time at FC Seoul, which will allow him to stay sharp and should set him up for a fresh start in Europe in the summer.
"First and foremost, I wanted to maintain my match fitness. I made this decision for my future," Hwang said. "I want to help the team reach the heights befitting its prestige. I want to score as many goals as I can."
FC Seoul said they believed Hwang could help lift the team and also the K League to a new level and added, "Hwang Ui-jo sees this as an opportunity to write a new chapter in his career."
Hwang is scheduled to report to FC Seoul's offseason training camp in Kagoshima, Japan, on Monday.
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