Skip to Content

Busan Foodan Football

And so to the main event… our first live game of this World Cup, and the stadium in Busan. France v. Uruguay – the current World Champions against the first World Champions. As a non-aligned party, I was simply looking forward to the prospect of a scintillating game of football, with both teams needing a win to keep their championship hopes alive.

The Ball in Busan
The Ball arrives at Busan stadium

With our tickets in our pockets, we made our way to the Busan stadium; a giant jellyfish nestling beautifully in the hills outside the city. We joined the throng filing into the stadium, looking forward to getting the Ball in to a ground at last. Or so we thought…

Counterfeit Uruguayan
R U A Uruguayan?

More than one way to spell Uruguay
More than one way to spell Uruguay

On our way into the stadium, I was approached by the three guys pictured above, who were looking for tickets to the game. Turned out that the first was a Canadian living in Korea, and the other two were from America and England. I didn’t question their alliegance to Uruguay, but did suggest that they be careful which way round they sat in the terraces.

A French supporter makes good use of his assets
A French supporter makes good use of his assets

We mingled with other supporters as we queued to gain entry to the stadium complex, and eventually arrived at the police barrier, where we knew there would be very tight security arrangements – primarily designed to avoid another terrorist attack during one of the world’s most watched events. We knew from the backs of our tickets that we couldn’t bring any hammers or alcohol into the stadium, but to my horror, it turned out that footballs were also on the prohibited items list.

Exile for the Ball

So we made our way sadly over to the store where we could voluntarily turn in our banned item. I was surprised to see it placed on a shelf next to what appeared to be a handgun. Now I can sympathise with that… but a football? I couldn’t figure out the reasoning. My only thought was that the authorities were afraid of someone throwing a ball on to the pitch during the game. Which might have been an advantage to the French as it turned out…

VIPs at last

I stepped up to one of the entrance gates to the main arena, presented my ticket to the police security, and was suddenly treated to a courteous bow. Apparently the VIP tickets that we had received from FIFA really were for VIPs. I guess my experience of the complete mis-use of the term in London clubland (where being on the guestlist usually means standing a queue longer than if you’ve actually paid for a ticket) had jaded me to the term. The policeman asked us to accompany him to where we should have come in, and whisked us away from the hoi-polloi down some stairs and past a police cordon to a reception table.

Aimee Jacquet
Aimee Jacquet

We were ushered to our seats overlooking the half-way line and sat down amazed at our luck. I looked round and spotted Aimee Jacquet, the previous French manager, sitting two rows behind us. A geniune VIP next to, um, us… While Phil went off to film crowd shots, mine and Rob’s minds turned to the subject of food, as we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We dropped down a tier of the terraces and looked back to see if there was a bar, and seeing nothing, wandered inside the only doors that we could see.

Two traditionally dressed Korean women bowed deeply to us (we were getting used to this by now) and we walked inside to find… a free – yes that does say free – bar and a bunch of tables with all kinds of fantastic food laid out on them. Phil soon joined us…

Phil enjoys corporate hospitality...
Phil enjoys corporate hospitality…

...a bit too much!
…a bit too much!

Feeling like intruders, we tucked into the freebies with the gusto of people who hadn’t seen a smoked salmon in close to three months (oh, and what a salmon that was) and I guiltily crept up to the bar for Chivas Regal refills, waiting for the “that’s quite enough whisky for you, sir” that never came. I began to feel better about being there as I chatted to a few folk from the French and Uruguayan Football Associations, who were all intrigued and interested in the story of our travels and the idea of the Ball.

French-Korean friendship
French-Korean friendship

Just before the game started, I was delighted by a French gesture of goodwill. The supporters unfurled a huge French flag which had the Korean flag’s symbols pasted into the white middle section. It was a moment of great beauty, and, for me, represented everything that I find appealing about football. My sympathies started to lean towards the French team, and when, after about half an hour of play, Thierry Henri was inexplicably shown a red card for a relatively harmless tackle, my team for the day was decided once and for all.

FLH with French playing legend Michel Platini
FLH with a dejected-looking Michel Platini

At half time, it was back to the booze’n’food, but then as we stood in the smoking area, in walked Michel Platini, French playing legend and former captain of the national side, puffing away with the head of the French FA, looking dejected and nervous. We could only agree with him when he said that the French were not playing well at all. I wished him, and the team, bonne chance.

It's not over until...
Dejected French supporters contemplate the result

So at the end of the day, it was a game of no goals… but a very exciting scoreless draw. The French battled away, and for the entire second half had the Uruguayans pinned back in their own half of the pitch, despite being a player short. But to no avail. Now they have to beat Denmark by two clear goals to get through to the next round.

C’est la vie, mes amis.

Perhaps what you needed was the presence of the Ball to add some magic to your game.

Written by on Friday, June 7th, 2002

3 comments on this post

  1. Nobody who works with French people can possibly want them to go out in the group stages. Let’s all hope they jolly well pull their socks up for the Danes.

  2. The Xenophobic June 10, 2002 at 4:49 am

    Well, I`m afaid I don`t work with anyone of a French persuasion, so I think it`ll be rather funny if the reigning champions exit at this early stage.

  3. God (who is also a xenophobe) June 13, 2002 at 11:49 am

    Your wish is my command.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The Ball 2018 left England on 25th March 2018 and travelled to the World Cup in Russia.

The Ball 2014 kicked off from England on 9th Jan 2014 and headed to the World Cup in Brazil.

The Ball 2010 left England on 24th Jan 2010 headed to the Opening Ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Ball 2006 travelled from London to the Opening Ceremony in Munich, Germany.

The Ball 2002 was carried 7000 miles across Europe and Asia to the World Cup finals in Korea & Japan.