By Stephen Byrne
The Fifa World Cup begins in Brazil on 12th June and we will be looking at Rovers’ connections with all participating countries.
Though the star of South Korean football continues to rise, and though South Korean nationals are beginning to appear in the top tiers of English football, no player from that country has yet played for or against Rovers in League action.
However, Seol Ki-Hyeon, the holder of 65 full caps for South Korea and the scorer of thirteen goals, played for Fulham in both FA Cup-ties against Rovers in January 2008 before joining the Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal twelve months later.
Ki-Hyeon later played for Pohang Steelers, Ulsan Hyundai, for whom he scored the winning goal in the 2011 Korean League Cup Final, and Incheon United.
Similarly, Kim Do-Heon, on loan from Seongnam, played as a substitute for West Bromwich Albion at The Memorial Stadium in the FA Cup quarter-final of March 2008 and later played for Suwon Blue Wings. He scored twelve times in 62 matches for South Korea.
The sole direct connection between South Korea and Bristol Rovers relates to that Fishponds-born striker Jamie Cureton. He scored 72 goals in 167 (plus nine as sub) league appearances in a Rovers shirt and added four goals in 20 K-League matches for Pusan Icons in 2003.
Born in August 1975, Cureton has enjoyed league football for England Youth, AFC Bournemouth, Norwich City, Reading, Queens Park Rangers, Swindon Town and Colchester United as well as Rovers.
Indeed, he scored the goal that earned Reading promotion to Division One in 2002, as a result of which Reading fans paid for a newly-discovered star in the constellation Perseus to be named after him.
He had joined Rovers in a £250,000 deal from Norwich in September 1996 and swiftly proved himself capable of scoring reliably at lower-league level. His main legacy to Rovers though, was perhaps the four second half goals that helped earn a 6-0 victory away to Reading in January 1999.
He was both the first visiting player and the first Reading player to score a hat-trick at the Madejski Stadium. Cureton's South Korean odyssey stemmed from a July 2003 move to Pusan Icons, a club playing in a coastal city in the south-eastern corner of the country.
The K-League was hoping to attract players from European leagues and his four goals in 20 matches helped ensure his reputation was maintained in that country too.
Andy Cooke, who played for Pusan Icons between July 2003 and January 2005, played for Burnley, Stoke City and Shrewsbury Town against Rovers in the League, scoring once when Burnley won 4-3 at The Mem in January 1999.
Ian Porterfield, who played in both Sunderland’s League fixtures against Rovers in 1975-76, coached Busan to victory in the 2003-04 Korean Cup Final.
Derek Asamoah, who played against Rovers for Northampton Town and Shrewsbury Town, including the 2007 Wembley game, later scored thirteen goals in 56 games with Pohang Steelers and four in 33 matches for Daegu FC.
Norwegian Jon Olan Hjelde played sixteen times for Busan I’Park in 2003-04 and was in the Mansfield Town side which opposed Rovers both I March 2006 and November 2006.