The news from the South Korean camp is that Cho Goo Sung had to turn off his phone.
It was all salvage to a world of daily marriage proposals.
He had to get some rest. His phone was on all night. It was keeping him awake. He was trying to focus on soccer, And all the while, the messages were coming in.”
Within a few days, this “unimportant player” (his words) had spread strangely. Well, maybe not that Oddly enough, the player in question has the looks of a pop star, and having scored two headed goals against Ghana in their second World Cup match, is more than just a pretty face.
However, it was still a wild story. At the start of the tournament he had around 20,000 followers on Instagram. At the time of this writing he has 1.6 million. This is even though he’s only had five posts and hasn’t posted since July.
As one of his new fans wrote on Twitter: “When I first saw his Instagram account it had 40k, now it’s up to 1m in a few days. Cho Goo Sung, you’re the tough guy! Thank you for the two beautiful goals and making history today guys! King. Now, accept my hand in marriage.”
All of which probably shows the power of the World Cup in the age of social media, internet memes, and in this case, hashtag blocks (193 million views, by the way, of #choguesung on TikTok).
Just consider what happened when a South Korean journalist, Yim Hyun-su, posted a clip of Cho sitting on the bench, doing nothing more interesting than opening his arms to wipe his hand on his left cheek. Yim predicted that Cho is about to see a “crazy increase in followers on Insta”. And he was right. Meanwhile, the seven-second video has been viewed 7.3 million times. This is not your ordinary story.
Cho Gue-sung’s fancam has already racked up over 6 million views lol pic.twitter.com/L4B2JI3Te1
– Hyunsu Yim (@hyunsuinseoul) November 28, 2022
Chu’s story has since been covered by the Indian Express, the Korea Herald and The Scottish Sun. Type his name into Google and it will show you suggestions like “the type of woman Cho likes”, “cho dating”, “cho marrying” and “cho Park” Many fans compare his looks to Park Seo-joon, an award-winning actor and a heart throb In itself.
Plus it helps with Cho appearing as the cute boy-next-door type. He is the only South Korean to score in this tournament, but there was no trace of arrogance after his goals against Ghana. “I apologize to the fans who stayed up late to watch the match,” said the 24-year-old, who was noted for a sweet spot under his left eye just like South Korea’s most famous player, Son. Heung-min.
says Devon Rockliffe, author of Who Ate All the Squid? Football adventures in South Korea. “After the craze of the 2002 World Cup, midfielder Kim Nam-il became a sex symbol overnight. Female fans carried banners at matches with steamy euphemisms, making marriage proposals or less formal encounters.”
The interesting part is where all this could lead — modeling opportunities, TV commercials, maybe a blue tag for Cho on Instagram (yes, he doesn’t have one yet) — and what comes next for a player that one South Korean journalist described as a “no.” one a year ago.
says Josh Hirschman, a branding expert with an excellent list of clients from the highest end of the sport.
“It will be interesting to see what brands he’s looking to capitalize on and how much influence he has outside of Asia. It’s also worth paying attention to how he builds his profile from here. What is he waiting for? What is he like off the pitch? A build that will open up more opportunities for him.”
Hirschman speaks as the managing director of Ten Toes Media, an agency that has done its own research into how standing out at the World Cup can dramatically change a player’s social media status. Richarlison, for example, added 3.85 million followers after scoring twice for Brazil in their opening match. Judd Bellingham put 120,500; Kylian Mbappe 96,700; Olivier Giroud 40,500; Inner Valencia 40300; and code gackbo 24200.
The difference with Cho is that, unlike all of the players mentioned above, he did not score in his team’s opener. He didn’t even start the match. He’s caught people’s eye because of his looks, and it’s not yet clear what he thinks of that, largely because he’s offline and doesn’t have anyone controlling his social media accounts (not yet, anyway). Although, for the record, he does have a girlfriend.
“It’s only the World Cup that has the immediate power to catapult lesser-known players from around the world to stardom overnight,” Hirschmann says. “The World Cup is the biggest stage in world football, so if you perform well, you know the eyes of the planet are on you.”
His portfolio is growing, and while he may be sad for his legion of new fans in South Korea, most players in his position want to pursue new adventures abroad. At some point, he may turn his phone back on again.
(Top photo: Samuel Richardson Design; Photo by Getty Images)