“We learnt that it’s not the winning that counts. Wherever you go, playing football can be used to improve diplomatic relations and promote peace.”
– an ex North Korean footballer talking about his team at the World Cup in England in 1966
But the winning sure does feel good…
Koreans have taken to the streets in their thousands to celebrate their victory over Italy… and the delight that is so plainly written across their faces is equally delightful to behold. I’ve just got back from dancing down an eight lane highway in the middle of town with the crowds… beers and soju being thrust into my hands whenever they weren’t high-fiving passers-by…
Phil told me, when he got back from his wander around the city, that he’d met an American out celebrating who turned to him and said… that he had never realised that football could be like this. I know exactly what he means, as I had an almost identical feeling at France ’98; my first experience of football fans that I didn’t feel threatened by – but more than that, though – my first experience of fans who celebrated a beautiful game in a beautiful way.
Today was Korea’s day, and they made the most of it. Their team snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, with pin-up lad who missed the early penalty scoring the golden goal in extra time to send the game reviewers a narrative hook from heaven. He deserves all the product endorsements that he can get.
Te Hamin Gwo!
In fairness to the Italians, though, I thought they were on the wrong end of a lot of poor refereeing decisions, and unlucky to lose the game. On the other hand, some of the players have to learn to stay on their feet or else they’ll continue to lose the ref’s sympathy time and time again. They are all great players, but do themselves a great injustice with their melodrama.
Oh pilsen Korea!
I have only one thing left to say:
But today I’m going to say it over and over again… just so I don’t forget…
Dancing for joy
Written by Christian Wach on Tuesday, June 18th, 2002