FC Seoul are back where we belong, says Osmar
Seoul: Spaniard Osmar Barba went from zero to hero on Tuesday for FC Seoul, scoring an own goal before firing home a free-kick to restore the club's two-goal cushion on the way to a 4-1 victory over Malaysia's Kedah FA and a place in the 2020 AFC Champions League group stage.
The 31-year-old spoke exclusively to the-AFC.com following the play-off tie at Seoul World Cup Stadium and he reflected on the match, the importance of playing in the AFC Champions League, his favourite memories from the competition so far, and his hopes for 2020.
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Hello Osmar, congratulations on qualifying for the 2020 AFC Champions League. How important is it for you on an individual level and also for FC Seoul as a team to be participating in this competition?
Thank you. It is very important at every level to take part in ACL2020. For me personally, I love this competition. I have totally different feelings from the domestic championship and it is always important as all eyes are on every game.
For a team like FC Seoul, I'd say it's almost mandatory to play in it. We are the team of the capital city of Korea Republic so we represent the best of what Korean football is about.
This club has rich history in the competition and, after we had a big dip in form two years ago, players must know again what it means to play in the AFC Champions League and get used to playing mid-week games as well. This club is meant to play in the AFC Champions League, no matter how far we can go in the tournament
It was a rollercoaster game for you personally. An own goal and then 10 minutes later a great free-kick – can you tell us your thoughts on the game against Kedah?
It's well known that these kind of games are dangerous if the "stronger" team do not come in with a good mental condition. It was all up to us how the game would end. That's why after my own goal we had a shaky five-minute spell.
However, the team and I got back on our feet and played out the rest of the game in positive fashion. I can't think of a better way to redeem myself after the own goal than scoring in the right net a few minutes later. It sent a message to the team saying everything was on the right path again and we had to calm down to get the job done.
Did scoring the own goal motivate you to then take the free-kick? Or was that something you would have done anyway?
I would've done it anyway as I took free-kicks last year. The own goal didn't affect me much, but it did affect the team. I knew everything was cool, but it's true that I needed to do something to tell my teammates we were going to be OK and couldn't lose control of the game.
In your goal celebration you grabbed the shirt sleeve to show the Seoul fans – can you explain the celebration?
I pointed at the AFC Champions League patch. I wanted to remind the fans that we were heading back to this competition that we all missed so much.
You’ve played several times in the AFC Champions League, can you talk about some of your favourite matches or memories from the tournament?
My first great memory was playing Esteghlal when I was at Buiriram United in Thailand. Reaching the 2013 quarter-final was amazing, I enjoyed both games a lot.
Probably the other big games I remember are linked to Urawa [Red Diamonds]. It is a team I admire for how they play and how their fans support them. An FC Seoul-Urawa match was always very attractive to watch, with different styles and a lot of goals, sometimes extra-time and penalty shootouts.
Luckily, I was able to score in many of my visits to their stadium as well.
At the 2020 AFC Champions League, FC Seoul are in Group E with Beijing FC, Melbourne Victory and Chiangrai United – can you give us your thoughts on each opponent?
Alright, first I should talk about Beijing. Like all Chinese teams they have great foreign players and I believe they played some nice football last season.
Melbourne Victory is always a tough team. All Australian teams are tough, especially for the away legs as we have to fly a long way and deal with tiredness.
Chiangrai I don't know too much about, but I do know winning a league that features strong teams like Buriram and Muangthong United in it is a significant achievement. Also the conditions in Thailand can be quite challenging, so we'll need to be careful.
Overall, though, we should be able to get through to the next stage. I'm confident on that.
Under current FC Seoul coach, Choi Yong-soo, the team reached the AFC Champions League final in 2013. What are the realistic team goals for this year on the Continent?
I think we are a bit far from saying we are candidates to win it. However, it will be a great experience for all of us, to test us and to see if we can continue growing after the big dip we had back in 2018 that I mentioned before.
So we can't say where we want to be at the end, but we have to go game by game taking the opportunity and experience to grow as a team and as players.
And finally what are your personal footballing goals for 2020?
My personal goals are a bit different. Firstly, I am far away from home doing what I love the most so my goal is to keep doing it as long as I can.
I'm with a club that I have a strong connection to, so the more I play the more I can help the club that trusted me and where I've spent more than half my professional career so far.
Secondly, I feel like this is a good place to make my story to tell my kids and friends some day. I want to be part of something, somewhere, and this is the place.
I want my family to be proud and I want to have no regrets coming all the way here following my dream. I'd like to be remembered and make my mark here.
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