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Stepping Away

After seven years at the helm, the time has come for me to step away from K League United and life in South Korea. 

When I moved to the sleepy Southern town of Gwangyang back in 2015 and fell in love with the mighty Jeonnam Dragons, I had no idea where they would take me. No clue of the highs and lows I would experience because of that team and the project I started to cover them. 

From the shocking lows of experiencing relegation for the first time in my life, to the jubilant highs of winning the FA Cup as a second division side and playing in the AFC Champions League, this team has been the beating heart of my entire professional football journey. 

A heartbeat that will forever thrum steadily in my chest, but one that is very much ready for a new chapter and a new challenge. 

I have spent more time dedicating my life to all things K League and spreading the word of its teams, players, and personalities than I did to studying in university. Time happily spent traversing the truly stunning landscape of Korea to visit new stadiums and report on the storylines taking place that weekend. And I am still so so humbled and grateful to have had the opportunity to do so, but like the unquestionably great Kim Shin-wook in the summer of 2019, it's time for me to move on. 

Unlike him, my next challenge doesn't come with a lucrative transfer fee for KLU nor a pay bump for yours truly. What it will involve is a broader scope of which nations, leagues, teams, and players' stories I hope to help tell in the coming years. Much like the Wookie, I plan on continuing my ACL journey in the years to come, but I also plan to spend time covering tournaments like AFC Cup, re-visiting Thunder Domes and Thunder Castles, and shining a light on the lives of the men and women making the sport work in the utterly unique and always enthralling region of Southeast Asia. 

Having just wrapped up my coverage of the 2022 AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup and finally experiencing first hand what football looks, sounds, and feels like here, I very much have confirmation of what I've suspected for years: this is the region I want to call home. 

I can't and don't really care to go into all of the details now though. That's for later. For now, I simply want to say thank you. 

Thank you to each and every person who has read even one article on this website, every person who's tuned in to listen to the pod and sat through my rants on Kim Do-hoon's tactical blunders (there were more than a few), all of you who have supported and encouraged me through the years, and yes, even those who doubted me and this project. 

Simply put: my life isn't what it is today without K League United. 

If not for this site, I never would have had the opportunity to quit teaching and move full time into a profession that has given me so much. A job that has taken me from the fourth division in Malaysia, to sold out national stadiums across Asia, to being on field capturing the pure joy of Nadeshiko Japan and the War Elephants of Thailand as they paraded trophies around. 

More importantly, my life never would have involved the ragtag group of writers that banded together with a shared passion to spread the pride we felt for our local teams and this league to as many corners of the world as possible. 

I am forever grateful for all of the time, dedication, enthusiasm, and friendship over the years from each and every one of you. The community we created and cultivated was such a vital source of joy throughout all of my years involved, but especially during the pandemic when the world was filled with anything but. Again, I humbly thank you. 

The good news for the Korean football fans reading this is that dedication and passion from the current crew at K League United isn't going anywhere. In fact, there's a lot lined up for the 2023 season I'm very excited for y'all to see and be a part of! 

Leading that charge, as they have for so many years now, will be the incomparable Paul Neat and Matthew Binns. I don't really have enough space here to go on for as long as I'd like about these two men. Two of my very best friends. My brothers. And it's highly unlikely that's what you, dear reader, are here for at this point anyway. 

What I will say is that it has been the honour of a lifetime to go on this astonishing journey side-by-side with them for so many years building what KLU is now. I couldn't be more proud of what we've accomplished, and am so very excited to see what this project looks like under their leadership in the years to come.

Like the yellow and black Jeonnam Dragon blood coursing through my veins, these two, this site, and Korean football in general will forever be a massive part of the beating heart that pushes me forward onto the next chapter of the bizarre, often challenging, and always captivating football odyssey that is my life.

No matter where I go, which teams and tournaments I cover, or which stadiums I get to experience, there will never be any party like a K2 party! I look forward to following that and so much more from a distance finally just as a fan of one of Asia's very best leagues. 

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