clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Kim Kee-Hee says Obafemi Martins helped him choose the Sounders

The South Korean center back said the former Seattle forward helped guide his decision

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — Kim Kee-Hee, the Seattle Sounders’ newest center back, addressed the media for the first time Wednesday after the club trained at CenturyLink Field. The South Korean, who the club signed using Targeted Allocation Money from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua Tuesday, said he was excited by the opportunity to play in front of Seattle’s internationally famous crowds.

Kim said one of his teammates at Shanghai Shenhua, former Sounder Obafemi Martins, had advised him on the upside of playing in Seattle.

“I played with Obafemi Martins in China, and he put in a lot of good words about Seattle,” Kim said through an interpreter. “He talked about a lot of fans in Seattle. I had a lot of fans in China. But after seeing this stadium, I want to step in here and play right now.”

The international pull of Seattle has helped the Sounders in recruiting before. When Gustav Svensson joined the club from Guangzhou R&F last season, he cited the advice of fellow Swede Erik Friberg as a motivating factor in picking the Rave Green.

Svensson’s journey from the Chinese Super League may also be of interest to Kim. Prior to Svensson’s arrival in Seattle, the defensive midfielder was regarded as a bubble player for Sweden, until strong showings with the Sounders earned him call-ups for critical World Cup qualifiers, including 71 minutes as a relief substitute in the qualifying playoff second leg against Italy that punched Sweden’s ticket to Russia.

Like Svensson, Kim has recently become a second-choice player for the South Korean national team. The six-foot-two center back only played in six of South Korea’s 18 World Cup Qualifiers and acknowledged that he hopes the MLS season will prepare him for a possible call-up for Russia in the summer.

“I am very excited as a soccer player to go to the World Cup,” Kim said. “I need to get ready for the World Cup too.”

The final reason for Kim’s departure from China related to the increasingly strict restrictions on international players in the Chinese Super League. In early 2017, the Chinese FA announced that it was limiting clubs in the Chinese top flight so that they could field no more than three non-Chinese players per match, including other players from the Asian Football Confederation.

“It was hard for me to deal with the international quota in the Chinese league, but I was ready (to play there) all the time,” Kim said. “That was a part of my decision. I want more playing time, so that’s one of the reasons I chose MLS.”

Kim seems like the kind of international signing the Sounders are keen on: experienced and eager to demonstrate their value to club and country, especially with World Cup call-ups looming. It may cost the Sounders another player when the tournament rolls around, but Kim seems like another player with a chance to make an immediate impact in 2018.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Sounder At Heart Weekly Roundup newsletter!

A twice weekly roundup of Seattle Sounders and OL Reign news from Sounder at Heart