Why people in Korea are talking about Leeds United without even knowing it

When was your ‘Leeds era'?

“Doing a Leeds” is a common enough expression among football fans in the UK – but it seems that, over in Korea, the club have worked their way into the language in a slightly different way.

A curious football fan on Reddit has explained the journey they went on to find the origin of a phrase which refers to a person’s “prime” or their “golden age”.

According to Reddit user velders01, who identifies as Korean-American, “it is almost always used by women who use it as ‘during the height of my beauty'”.

Alan Smith playing for Manchester United
It seems some Korean football fans did not think Alan Smith was good enough to play for Manchester United (Sean Dempsey/PA)

“It’s pronounced ‘ri-jeuh’ and I knew how to use it obviously, but never knew wtf ‘ri-jeuh’ actually meant,” they added.

Having finally become curious enough to do some research into the phrase – looking it up on Korean Wikipedia – they were surprised to find it appears to refer to Leeds United.

“According to the article, it started off with a handful of Koreans online talking about Alan Smith in his prime as ‘Alan Smith’s era in Leeds’, which then shortened to ‘Leeds Era’,” they wrote.

And the reason for Koreans’ particular interest in the relative merits of different eras of Smith’s footballing career, it would seem to be all down to Park Ji-sung.

The former South Korea international’s time at Manchester United overlapped with that of Smith by a couple of years from around 2005 to 2007 – a period that seems to have given birth to the “ri-jeuh” phrase.

Park Ji-sung celebrates scoring for Manchester United
Park Ji-sung’s move to Old Trafford brought a new wave of Korean attention to Manchester United (Nick Potts/PA)

velders01 wrote: “It seems that it started when a bunch of football hipsters got pissed off at mainstream Koreans rushing to Man. Utd. because of Ji Sung Park, then wondering why someone as ‘bad’ as Alan Smith could get on this team.

“Hipsters would say, ‘oh, you just don’t get how good he was at Leeds, do you even know Leeds Utd? Do you even know the Leeds Era, you filthy casuals?'”

A striker at Leeds, Smith was moved into midfield at Old Trafford by Alex Ferguson, but the former England international saw his progress hampered by a broken leg and dislocated ankle.

Now the phrase has taken on a more general use and, according to velders01, is used most often by women referring back to a time when they feel they used to be more attractive.

“I’m fairly certain damn near 100% of Korean women don’t even know Leeds United is a football club at all, or that there’s a city called Leeds at all,” they added.

Alan Smith celebrates a Champions League goal
Leeds were in a Leeds era of their own when Alan Smith played for them (Gareth Copley/PA)

So while “doing a Leeds” in English might typically refer to a dramatic fall from grace, Leeds fans will pleased to know that in Korea their club has become a by-word for a golden period.

Leeds will be hoping they can recreate their own Leeds era as they head into the Championship play-offs next month, aiming to return to the Premier League for the first time since they were relegated in 2004 – the year Smith left to join Manchester United.

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