The World Cup has begun, kickoff between Brazil and Croatia underway. The best part about Group H is Korea gets the maximum amount of time to prepare for their first game (vs Russia) on June 17th [June 18th in Korea].With their tune up form lately, Coach Hong will need all the time he can get.
The Tavern is asking everyone from around the world -do you know of other World Cup viewing events featuring Korea group matches? Let us know (via comment section -and include address if possible) – we’ll post it up -that’ll join alongside Noonchi’s event and a Washington DC Dupont Circle public viewing party June 26 with Korea v Belgium…
Which segues to this: Confessions of a Gyopo [title to be determined]- a piece I submitted to Noonchi for their new Korean soccer page, open for viewing beginning June 16th. Talk about context – the audience intended is not necessarily Tavern goers but to casual readers taking topical interest in Korea+World Cup. It does however, give an idea of how I got acquainted with a certain Taeguk Warriors squad in the summer of 2002. I set this up as like discovering something exotic and mysterious – needless to say it’s an adventure and a journey that I am still on…
Here is an excerpt:
Magic. Was it a trick, an illusion, divine intervention or something that you can’t quite put your finger on but know it’s something special, here in a flash and suddenly gone? Subject: 2002 Korean World Cup squad, 1 game and 1 goal away from a finale appearance in the biggest tournament on the planet. Korea was on the edge of pulling off the most impossible feat imaginable at the time – but something else unexpected happened – it allowed people, and not just Koreans, to dream far beyond what was considered possible in the hegemony of global football.
But let me stop for a moment. There is danger in comparing the team in 2002 to Korea’s current incarnation going to Brazil World Cup 2014. I won’t go there, but I will get back to a hot June summer in Denver, where I didn’t even know the World Cup was even about to begin, much less be co-hosted by South Korea and Japan. What was on my mind? Hockey. You read that right, hockey. How Patrick Roy blew game 7 against Detroit to miss the Stanley Cup finals. Sad to say, soccer wasn’t even on my radar. And I wasn’t just a Korean American trying to ditch the adjective. With my local sports affiliations identified along with abject ignorance of football (the round kind) to boot, I fulfilled the wish of my immigrant father and became what he could never be: a full fledged absorbed American.
By chance while flipping though the Denver News Post, a small mention about an upcoming Korea group match in the World Cup. Curious, I had to set my timer to 2:30am to go down the rabbit hole. I don’t EVER watch games that late, but something compelled me. Not sure, but this was something mysterious – like meeting the girl living in the apartment below and taking up her invitation to an underground club way past midnight. I was stepping into unexplored territory, not sure what I was going to find.
I can’t even tell you who their opponent was; I had trouble even finding a bar open that late to watch the game. But I know from the minute I saw the channel flip to display the game, I was mesmerized. Before the match I wondered by what margin would they lose. Maybe they weren’t even supposed to be there. But the way in which they went through, approaching full time with nail biting goals that typified their never-say-die attitude, before I knew it I was hooked. They were the ultimate underdogs, not having won a single World Cup match prior to 2002. They were representing a nation of survivors on the biggest of world stages.
Suddenly my fascination turned into a logistical scramble for the rest of the games in figuring out homes I could crash for the night carrying cable TV. Most bars in Denver closed at 2 in the morning. The western hemisphere trying to watch games live was upside down in relation to Asia, further challenges in scheming, strategizing ways to watch in the dead of night. For me, it added to the intrigue of it all.
Honestly, the rest of the tournament was a blur, an exhilarating one at that, eventually leaving me hoarse from yelling and legs tired from running laps in the streets like a madman every time Korea scored. I wonder how it was that the Denver Police never picked me up as a deranged lunatic at 4 am? I was there, with the thousands of red devils crammed in the stadiums, the millions more jammed in the streets, watching with bated breath, waiting…and then erupting in euphoric frenzy like none other, jumping up and down, yelling at the night sky louder than what seemed possible. And somehow this Korean squad of players completely unknown to me was managing to free themselves, past Poland and Portugal and on into the advanced stages of the Coupe de Monde.
What I can remember in terms of images, Park Ji-Sung scoring a late game winner against Portugal, a tense shootout battle against Spain and most imprinted of all, Ahn Jung-Hwan heading the ball into the Italian net in overtime the golden goal winner. I, along with everyone else watching just lost it in a roar heard around the globe. That last image of Ahn has stuck with me. I had a dream about it once several years ago, replayed in a loop.
Something clicked about that goal. It triggered something that took a while to process…
….an excerpt from Confessions of a Gyopo.
Well that essay gives some background to my journey as the old Tavern owner…
This is just extra, but I didn’t want to go on a nostalgia spree at the expense of this 2014 KNT squad, but for context regarding the Noonchi essay, here’s a clip, cutting between the Korean media covering and moments from the round of 16 Korea v Italy match -with that brilliant golden goal by Ahn.
- Gary Monk continues his charm campaign in easing Ki Sung-Yeung back to Swansea. Ki went on loan to Sunderland, a fairly successful 2nd season in the Premiership for the midfielder. The ex Swans defender and now manager went on the record to say if Ki comes back, he can be assured of a significant role with the Welsh club. With a year left on his contract, Ki has some options.
- Last week, Yonhap news interviewed Han Kook-Young. Along with Ki, Han’s deep mid performance could be vital to Korea’s chances in advancing out of Group H.
- The KNT made it to Brazil, one of the last few teams to arrive. They had quite a solid reception:
— Asian Football Feast (@AsianFballFeast) June 12, 2014