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Lee Keun-ho
이근호 Lee Keun-Ho.png
Lee in December 2016
Personal information
Full name Lee Keun-ho
Date of birth 11 April 1985 (1985-04-11) (age 36)
Place of birth Incheon, South Korea
Height 1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)
Playing position Forward
Club information
Current club Daegu FC
(on loan from Ulsan Hyundai)
Youth career
2004–2006 Incheon United
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2004–2006 Incheon United 2 (0)
2007–2008 Daegu FC 46 (19)
2009–2010 Júbilo Iwata 36 (13)
2010–2011 Gamba Osaka 52 (19)
2012–2014 Ulsan Hyundai 33 (8)
2013–2014 → Sangju Sangmu (draft) 43 (19)
2014–2015 El Jaish 18 (2)
2015 Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (loan) 15 (4)
2016 Jeju United 35 (5)
2017–2018 Gangwon FC 50 (8)
2018– Ulsan Hyundai 52 (6)
2021– → Daegu FC (loan) 0 (0)
National team
2003–2005 South Korea U20 9 (3)
2006–2008 South Korea U23 19 (5)
2007– South Korea 84 (19)
  • Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 5 December 2020.

† Appearances (Goals).

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 3 February 2018
Lee Keun-ho
Hangul 이근호
Hanja 李根鎬
Revised Romanization Yi Geun-ho
McCune–Reischauer Yi Kŭn-ho

Lee Keun-ho (Hangul: 이근호, born: 11 April 1985) is a South Korean footballer who plays for Daegu FC and South Korea national team. His pace, work-rate, and link-up plays mark him as a highly rated forward in Asia. South Korean international since 2007, he currently has 19 goals in 84 caps. He represented his country for two Asian tournaments, 2008 Summer Olympics and 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Club career

After graduating Bupyeong High School, Lee joined his hometown club, Incheon United in 2004. However, he was surplus to requirement, and usually stayed in the reserve squad. In 2006 season, he was nominated as the Best Player in the R League, the Korean reserves league for Incheon Reserves. Then, Daegu FC's manager Byun Byung-joo signed him at the beginning of 2007 season.

Newly appointed manager Byun brought intensively aggressive football to Daegu, named the "Bullet Football", and Lee began to claim the spotlight with his powerful dribbles. In his first season, he came seventh in the top scorers chart with eight goals, then came fifth in the 2008 season with eleven goals. In both seasons, he became top scoring South Korean of the league between foreign players. In his last game for Daegu, against Pohang Steelers in the semi-final of Korean FA Cup, he played full-time even with injury, but failed to rescue his side from a defeat. Daegu wanted to keep Lee, but he was willing to move to Europe, so in December 2008, his contract with Daegu expired, meaning he became a free agent. Several European clubs showed their interest in acquiring his talents. He was offered a trial at English Premier League club Blackburn Rovers, however he turned them down because he worried about the competition for a starting position in the club. In February 2009, it was again rumoured that Blackburn would be interested in signing the still free agent Lee Keun-ho, but again, he rejected the opportunity.

In April 2009, he signed for Júbilo Iwata, on a nine months contract. He made six goals and four assists in his first eight league games. In June, he left the club, with some media linking him with Paris Saint-Germain in the French Ligue 1; however, the move did not materialize. In June 2010, he signed for Gamba Osaka, and spent his best season in the 2011 J1 League, having scored 15 goals for Gamba Osaka at 32 matches.

On 10 January 2012, he returned to K League 1, signing for Ulsan Hyundai on a three-year deal. In his first season with the club, he won the 2012 AFC Champions League that was named as the Most Valuable Player of the tournament and also named as the Asian Footballer of the Year at the end of the year. He was transferred on 1 January 2013 to Sangju Sangmu on loan to complete his military service as per South Korean law.

International career

Lee was selected for the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in Netherlands. However, for most matches, he remained in the bench, not playing a single match in the group stage, while his team-mate Park Chu-young made good impressions. He was confirmed in the Summer Olympics squad in 2006, and became the most valuable player in the squad to qualify for the Olympic games. He was selected for the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, and also capped for the South Korea under-23 team in qualification for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

On 29 June 2007, Lee made his senior team debut in a friendly against Iraq through substitution in the second half. Lee also managed to score his debut goal from an assist made by Lee Chun-Soo. On 15 October 2008, Lee scored two goals in a qualification match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup against United Arab Emirates. On 19 November 2008, Lee scored the most important goal in his international career yet in an away game against Saudi Arabia, which ended South Korea's nineteen-year losing spell against the Saudis. Although he played in most of the qualification campaign, he was not named for the team to participate in the 2010 World Cup.

Lee was included in South Korea's squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup by showing good performances with three goals in the final round of the qualification. In their first group stage match against Russia on 17 June 2014, he came on as a substitute for Park Chu-young in the 52nd minute and scored his first ever World Cup goal in a 1–1 draw when his shot from outside the box was spilled by goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev over his head and over the line. He also assisted Koo Ja-cheol's goal in the second match against Algeria.

Personal life

Lee Keun-ho was born in Incheon, South Korea. He is well known for his friendship with Ha Dae-sung. Having played together in elementary, middle, and high school, they also played together at Daegu FC. His older brother Lee Won-ho is coaching a local side in Incheon.

Lee is the inaugural president of FIFPro Korea, South Korea's official players' union, since it gained Candidate Member status.

He has been supporting a former football player who suffered a heart attack during a match in 2011.

In 2015, he was appointed as the promotional ambassador of the Purme Foundation, which helps disabled children in their path of rehabilitation and is based in Gangneung. During his fellowship with the association, he organized several charity football matches and clinics to help the child patients by providing them with scholarships and appropriate equipment. In 2017, he also donated a correspondent of W100 million (about US$90200) to the foundation.

Following the forest wildfire that brought severe damages all over the Gangwon Province in 2019, Lee offered financial support to help the process of recover and rebuilding. He also made donations to the local health services in order to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks to his leading attitude both on and off the pitch and his charity activities, Lee was nominated for the 2020 FIFPro Merit Awards, three special prizes assigned to the footballers who distinguished themselves the most for their impact out of the playing field and their activism.

Career statistics

Club

Club Season League National Cup League Cup Continental Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Incheon United 2004 K League 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0
2005 K League 0 0 1 0 5 0 6 0
2006 K League 2 0 0 0 1 0 3 0
Total 2 0 2 0 6 0 10 0
Daegu FC 2007 K League 20 8 2 0 7 2 29 10
2008 K League 26 11 3 2 6 2 35 15
Total 46 19 5 2 13 4 64 25
Júbilo Iwata 2009 J1 League 24 12 1 1 1 0 26 13
2010 J1 League 12 1 0 0 4 1 16 2
Total 36 13 1 1 5 1 42 15
Gamba Osaka 2010 J1 League 20 4 5 1 0 0 25 5
2011 J1 League 32 15 1 0 0 0 7 2 40 17
Total 52 19 6 1 0 0 7 2 65 22
Ulsan Hyundai 2012 K League 33 8 2 1 12 4 2 1 49 14
Sangju Sangmu (draft) 2013 K League 2 25 15 2 0 27 15
2014 K League 1 18 4 0 0 18 4
Total 43 19 2 0 45 19
El Jaish 2014–15 Qatar Stars League 18 2 2 0 20 2
Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (loan) 2015 K League 1 15 4 2 0 17 4
Jeju United 2016 K League 1 35 5 1 0 36 5
Gangwon FC 2017 K League 1 37 8 2 0 39 8
2018 K League 1 13 0 0 0 13 0
Total 50 8 2 0 52 8
Ulsan Hyundai 2018 K League 1 22 4 5 1 27 5
2019 K League 1 18 2 0 0 3 0 21 2
2020 K League 1 12 0 3 0 8 0 23 0
Total 52 6 8 1 11 0 71 7
Daegu FC

(loan)

2021 K League 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Career total 382 103 29 6 24 5 34 6 2 1 471 121

International

National team Year Apps Goals
South Korea U20 2003 2 3
2004 1 0
2005 6 0
Total 9 3
South Korea U23 2006 2 0
2007 11 3
2008 6 2
Total 19 5
South Korea 2007 3 1
2008 11 5
2009 13 2
2010 5 0
2011 7 2
2012 8 5
2013 11 3
2014 12 1
2015 5 0
2016 0 0
2017 6 0
2018 3 0
Total 84 19
Career total 112 27

International goals

# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 29 June 2007 Seogwipo, South Korea  Iraq 3–0 3–0 Friendly match
2 11 October 2008 Suwon, South Korea  Uzbekistan 2–0 3–0 Friendly match
3 11 October 2008 Suwon, South Korea  Uzbekistan 3–0 3–0 Friendly match
4 15 October 2008 Seoul, South Korea  United Arab Emirates 1–0 4–1 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
5 15 October 2008 Seoul, South Korea  United Arab Emirates 3–1 4–1 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
6 19 November 2008 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia  Saudi Arabia 0–1 0–2 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification
7 4 February 2009 Dubai, United Arab Emirates  Bahrain 2–2 2–2 Friendly match
8 28 March 2009 Suwon, South Korea  Iraq 2–1 2–1 Friendly match
9 25 March 2011 Seoul, South Korea  Honduras 4–0 4–0 Friendly match
10 11 November 2011 Dubai, United Arab Emirates  United Arab Emirates 0–1 0–2 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification
11 29 February 2012 Seoul, South Korea  Kuwait 2–0 2–0 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification
12 8 June 2012 Doha, Qatar  Qatar 1–1 4–1 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification
13 8 June 2012 Doha, Qatar  Qatar 4–1 4–1 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification
14 15 August 2012 Anyang, South Korea  Zambia 1–0 2–1 Friendly match
15 15 August 2012 Anyang, South Korea  Zambia 2–1 2–1 Friendly match
16 26 March 2013 Seoul, South Korea  Qatar 1–0 2–1 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification
17 6 September 2013 Incheon, South Korea  Haiti 3–1 4–1 Friendly match
18 10 September 2013 Jeonju, South Korea  Croatia 1–2 1–2 Friendly match
19 17 June 2014 Cuiabá, Brazil  Russia 1–0 1–1 2014 FIFA World Cup

Honours

Incheon United Reserves

  • R League Championship: 2006
  • R League Group B: 2006

Júbilo Iwata

Ulsan Hyundai

Sangju Sangmu

  • K League 2: 2013

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

South Korea

Individual

  • R League Most Valuable Player: 2006
  • R League top assist provider: 2006
  • K League 1 Best XI: 2007, 2008, 2012, 2017
  • AFC Champions League Most Valuable Player: 2012
  • Asian Footballer of the Year: 2012
  • K League 2 Most Valuable Player: 2013
  • K League 2 top goalscorer: 2013
  • K League 2 Best XI: 2013
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