Striker Lars Veldwijk still waiting to make his league debut since South Korea move

Lars Veldwijk of Bafana during Afcon game against Ivory Coast this week.
Lars Veldwijk of Bafana during Afcon game against Ivory Coast this week.
Image: Lars Veldwijk

Striker Lars Veldwijk‚ who was part of South Africa’s squad at the last Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt last year‚ is still waiting to make his league debut since moving to South Korea.

The 28-year-old Dutch-born striker signed for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in January‚ joining the reigning Korean champions in a 300 000 euro (about R6-million) move.

“But I played one match for my new club in Australia‚” he said‚ having appeared in the Asian Champions League group stage matches against Sydney FC where the Koreans drew 2-2.

“For a footballer to play in the Champions League‚ it is among the highest honours‚ even though it wasn’t the UEFA Champions League but it is still the top competition in Asia.

“We’re playing the champions of Australia‚ Japan and we also have Chinese club Shanghai‚ where the Brazilians Hulk and Oscar play‚ in our group.

“The Japan and Korean league are the two strongest in Asia and my club are past champions League winner. We are one of the top clubs in Asia.”

The start of the new league season in Korea has been delayed by the outbreak of the coronavirus‚ which made an impact in Korea not long after China and well before the current crisis in Europe.

“I had just arrived in Korea when the crisis broke out in China.

"At first we weren’t affected because we went to Spain for pre-seaon training and then when we went back to Korea it was shut down.

Veldwijk is in a form of lockdown at the club where he also stays in accommodation at the stadium.

“I have my own room and the facilities can be compared with some of the best in the world – swimming pool‚ sauna‚ training fields‚ indoor halls‚” he added.

His team have continued to train.

“We are checked every day.

“The checks are thorough here‚ there are about 15 000 people checked every day and through those controls they have been able to get the number of infected people down.”

But it is not clear when the league will kick off and Veldwijk says training matches that had been planned have now been cancelled‚ leaving all in limbo‚ pretty much like the rest of the world.

But he says he is adapting despite being stuck without family‚ who are back in the Netherlands.

“I’d never been to Korea before‚ so I was a little nervous about the move. But I found everything so well organised.

“I like the culture‚ it is very respectful.”​