South Korea's real World Cup star is not on the pitch

News anchor Jang Ye Won first started watching football because she found a player attractive but is now eager to learn about the game.
News anchor Jang Ye Won first started watching football because she found a player attractive but is now eager to learn about the game.PHOTO: JANG YE WON TWITTER

South Korean news anchor Jang Ye Won is gathering fans of her own while reporting on the football action in Brazil

Along with football players such as Colombia's James Rodriguez and Germany's Manuel Neuer, South Korean news anchor Jang Ye Won is among the breakout stars of the World Cup 2014 in Brazil.

Rodriguez has his stunning chest-and-volley goal against Uruguay and Neuer has his one-handed save from French striker Karim Benzema at close range. Jang has a killer turn-and-smile that is making men around the world go weak at the knees.

Social media platforms are flooded with screengrabs and animated .gif clips of the pretty news- caster simply turning her head and smiling sweetly into the camera. That head-turning clip of Jang while she was watching the Spain versus Chile match has garnered more than 700,000 views since it was posted on South Korean television station SBS' YouTube channel.

Netizens are even enamoured by a video clip of her slurping instant noodles. More than one netizen has asked for her hand in marriage.

In an e-mail interview with Life!, Jang, 24, says: "Although no one recognises me on the streets, after the Chile-Spain match, there has been a sudden increase in foreign fans on my social media.

"From having 3,000 Twitter followers, I now have more than 44,000 followers. That is the worldwide reach the World Cup is capable of. I am thankful for it."

The confident lass is no stranger to having the limelight turned on her, and had pursued her dream of being a news anchor from the time she was in school.

"At school festivals during high school, while standing in front of everyone, I enjoyed the attention. I wasn't nervous at all. From then on, I was even more confident that I would go on to become a newscaster."

That pluckiness secured her a spot as a news anchor at SBS when she was still in her third year at South Korea's Sookmyung Women's University School of Communication and Media.

With this World Cup, she has landed the most important assignment of her career so far, if her enthusiasm during this interview is any gauge.

"Although I've watched many K-league matches, this is the first time I've been to the World Cup and the feeling is different - it's a really intense feeling of excitement," she says, referring to South Korea's professional football league.

"When I watch matches now, I imagine what's on the mind of the players. How nervous the player must be when he takes his first step onto the field, how frustrated he must feel for each mistake he makes. I get so tense watching the games."

Unlike some female sports reporters, she is unafraid to admit she was initially attracted to football because of the hot guys.

"The first thing that made me like football was that I had a player whom I was attracted to. I watched football to see my favourite player. My eyes would follow every movement of the player."

Since this World Cup assignment, she has changed her view and is now interested to know more about the "technical aspects" of the game.

While male fans worldwide are clamouring to get her attention, she has her eyes trained on her favourite football player, South Korea's Son Heung Min, who plays for German football club Bayer Leverkusen.

Recalling the time the 21-year-old striker "scored his first hat-trick in the European league", she says: "To be able to see him play so well in a foreign country and to watch him gain an enthusiastic following of foreign fans truly makes me proud.

"At this World Cup, Son Heung Min really cried a lot. This being his first World Cup, I could feel his eagerness and strong will to win just by looking at him."

Besides her own country's team, the Colombian squad's athletic performance and their celebratory dance moves have also left an impression on her.

"When I watched the players gather and dance every time they scored a goal, I thought, 'This is what they call the true feeling of enjoyment during the World Cup.'"

nggwen@sph.com.sg