Rising Stars

Hwang eyes UEFA Champions League following Kazan move

Kazan: Korea Republic international Hwang In-beom has set his sights on taking Rubin Kazan back into the UEFA Champions League after sealing his move to the Russian Premier League side from Vancouver Whitecaps earlier this week.

The 23-year-old completed the formalities of his transfer before embarking on an arduous trek from Canada to his new home on Thursday, where he will play his club football at the Kazan Arena, a venue made famous during the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Kazan hosted six games during the tournament, and most significantly for Hwang’s fans in his homeland, it was the site of Korea Republic’s remarkable 2-0 win over Germany which eliminated the defending champions from the competition.

Now the former Daejon Citizen midfielder and 2018 Asian Games gold medallist is hoping he can help restore Rubin Kazan’s glory days and take the club back into European football’s premier competition.

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“To be honest, before the negotiations I hadn’t heard anything about Kazan, but after they offered me I heard a lot of things, especially the 2018 World Cup (when) Korea played Germany and beat them 2-0,” he told the club’s official social media channel.

“So when Korean people think about Kazan it’s like a miracle city. That made me more comfortable to play here and come here. I heard about the city from Korean people who live in Kazan, they said it’s a really good city for Korean people and Asian people to live, so that made me more comfortable.

“Especially about Rubin Kazan as a team, I know how big a team Rubin Kazan was, especially 10 years ago because I saw the team in the Champions League. Now I'm here to go back to the path where they used to be. I want to help the team a lot so we can find our spot where we used to be.”

Kazan last won the Russian Premier League title in 2009 when they completed back-to-back triumphs in the domestic league to qualify for the group phase of the UEFA Champions League.

Since then they have struggled to hit the same heights and last season’s 11th place finish left the club outside the qualification places for Europe for the third season in a row.

However, the arrival of three-time Russian Premier League winning coach Leonid Slutsky in December has seen hopes rise in the western Russian city and Hwang is excited to be working with such a successful tactician, even if he freely admits to initially knowing little about the 49-year-old.

“To be honest I didn’t know about Leonid too much but after he called me I asked a hundred people about him and I searched him on Google and I realised how famous he is in Russia,” said Hwang.

“So now I’m here and I just want to enjoy my football with this team. I know how big a team Rubin Kazan is and I want to help the team a lot.

“I didn’t know about him so much, but after he called me two or three times he followed be on Instagram. So at this moment I was thinking: ‘If I don’t follow him back, even if I go there I’m not going to play!’ I had to follow him back and that’s how we follow each other.

“I’m grateful for everything he has done for me and I’m just going to give back to him my everything.”

Hwang’s move to Kazan fulfills a long-held ambition of wanting to play professionally in Europe and the Korea Republic international is confident he can make the move to Russia a success.

“I wanted to play in Europe since when I was young,” he said. “I was in Canada with Vancouver Whitecaps at this time and also I wanted to play in Europe, and the coach and the director of Rubin Kazan they called me and they explained to me about my role in this team.

“For me the most important thing is how much coach wants me to come here. So at this side I decided to come here and play. I trust the coach.”

Photos: Rubin Kazan, AFP

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