Impetus brings you news of the imminent departure of one of the FAWSL’s outstanding players. Ben Gilby ends the article with his own personal tribute to the South Korean star – one of his stand out players in three years covering Chelsea Women (29/4/22).
Above: Ji So-Yun pictured hitting a trademark shot from outside the box. Photo: Ben Gilby.
Following an outstanding eight years with the club, Ji So-Yun will leave Chelsea at the end of the season to head back to South Korea.
The Chelsea midfielder will continue with the Blues for the remainder of the season aiming to clinch a third successive FAWSL title and second consecutive FA Cup win. After these games, Ji will head back to South Korea.
As one of the club’s longest-serving players, Ji has been a pivotal member of Emma Hayes’ side, scoring an impressive 68 career goals at the club across a total of 208 career appearances so far, with three matches left this season. The 31-year-old has 37 WSL goals to her name, ranking her among the top scorers in WSL history.
Remarkably, Ji has been a part of each of the 11 major trophies the club has won in the WSL era, becoming a champion of England five times including the Spring Series, taking home the FA Cup three times, and also securing two Continental Cup wins and one Community Shield.
Ji was initially spotted by Hayes and general manager, Paul Green when Chelsea Women played Japanese side INAC Kobe Leonessa in the final of the 2013 International Women’s Club Championship in Tokyo. A two-year contract was signed, a landmark deal at the time for an international player to be heading to the WSL.
Ji became the first South Korean to play in the FA Women’s Super League in her debut campaign for the club in 2014 when she scooped FA WSL Player of the Year and PFA Players’ Player of the Year awards. She also went on to become the first non-British player to reach 100 and 200 league appearances respectively.
Ahead of the 2019/20 campaign, the Blues No.10 extended her stay for the final time for three years until 2022, with further accolades following with the South Korean shortlisted for FIFA’s Best Women’s Footballer and the FIFPRO World 11. Throughout her time at Chelsea, Ji has become renowned for her technical ability and brilliance on the ball, scoring some of our most memorable, big game goals, as well as her infectious personality and endless quirks and positivity that she brings to the team daily.
Away from Chelsea, Ji was appointed Co-president of the Korean Pro-Footballers’ Association in 2020, becoming the first female to occupy that role. She has also had a glittering career with Korea on the international field with over 125 caps for her country, most recently taking her team to the AFC Asian Cup Final. Ji has also been named South Korea’s Women’s Footballer of the Year an impressive six times and remains their top all-time goal scorer.
On Ji’s departure, Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes commented: “What an honour and a privilege it’s been to coach one of the most amazing players the WSL has ever seen. There’s no question she’s been the most successful player from outside our league.
“Ji’s helped the club grow on and off the pitch and she’s a fabulous character who will be sorely missed. I will miss her terribly and I’m so grateful for everything she’s done for everyone at the football club. We are in a much better place because of it.”
On a personal level, it has been an absolute pleasure and privilege watching Ji at Kingsmeadow and other FAWSL grounds over the past three seasons. The midfielder is a true creator of the highest quality and a fun figure that exudes love of life and the game. Ji is always one of the last to leave the pitch, posing for photos and autographs each week. Her departure leaves a huge hole at Chelsea both on and off the pitch.
As the fans’ song goes – Ji So-Yun: She’s Unbelievable.