Yesterday I posted a little piece about an incident that occurred at Incheon airport following the arrival of the Korean national team after their early World Cup exit. Here, are just some of my personal thoughts/opinions on the incident itself and the reaction to it.
Alright first off. My definitive positions on the acts in question.
- Throwing yeot at the players – Not acceptable behavior. These ‘fans’ crossed a line by throwing things.
- Yelling “eat yeot” at the players – Unsavory and childish, but not something I’ll crucify them for.
- Displaying banner that read “Korean football is dead” and “Because of you we lost” – Over the top in its message, but within their rights to make such claims.
More details on each point
As I just said, it’s not acceptable. Initially I kind of played it down because it’s just little pieces of candy and it didn’t hit them (or maybe hit their feet or something). No harm, no foul or something like that. But, in hindsight that was the wrong way to think about it. Because with that thinking, is it okay to throw flares on the pitch as long as they don’t hit anyone? What about fire crackers or smoke bombs? The answer is obviously ‘no’. So, it shouldn’t be acceptable to throw candies or anything else either.
Certainly a childish thing to do, and not a particularly pleasant thing for the players/rest of the world to hear. But let’s be honest here. How many of us have yelled curses (or worse) at the players during games? Either at the stadium, watching on TV, or online? This is probably where I diverge in opinion from many of you (at least judging by the comments). For me, it is the same. Cursing someone is cursing someone. Whether they hear it or not doesn’t matter. Because for me, cursing isn’t about the “receiver”, it’s about the “sender”.
Let’s say that, hypothetically, after the second goal (the set piece one) that Algeria scored I throw my hands in the air and yell, “Jung you fucking worthless piece of shit!” or I tweet it or post it on some forum. Is that more acceptable than yelling “엿 먹어라” at him in person? Again for me, it’s not. Some of you disagree on this point, and that’s fine. But I think you’re either okay with publicly cursing someone or not.
Over the top? Yes. Class-less? Sure. Mistaken? Yep, at least the main part. Korean football is obviously not dead, but it has taken a hefty blow. The cafe name is obviously correct, of course the team lost because of the players/coach. They certainly didn’t lose because of any conspiracy theory. But, In all honesty I don’t really have any issues with the banner.
Now would I do it? No. If they asked me if I thought it was a good idea, I would probably say “no” as well. But, if they felt that strongly about it and wanted to vent in front of the team, then that’s their right. I don’t think that makes them ‘losers’ per se. Now, if they drove up from Gwangju or Busan or something like that, it might make them a little loserish. But from all indications they are from the greater-Seoul area, and so I don’t think it makes them a loser for wanting to vent their anger any more than the fans that went to express their support.
Some other random things that have been brought up
“It’s just a game” – Technically yes, but in reality no. Part of the reason why football is so popular and the World Cup in particular is because it is more than just a game. If it was just a game the World Cup would not be as big as it is. National pride is at stake. Part of the reason this World Cup is big is because it’s in Brazil, a place where it’s a “religion”. How many times in the build up did we hear about how the tournament is coming to it’s “spiritual home”? Companies don’t spend billions of dollars on just a game. They spend it because it reaches into other aspects of people’s lives. If it was just a game we wouldn’t have any of these discussions. We would just say, “Ah well too bad. Better luck next time.” and be done with it.
Passion – People want others to care about the Korean club teams. People want the KFA to invest a significant amount of money and effort into the national team. None of it happens just because of a game. It’s the stuff that surrounds it that makes it happen. And at the base of it is passion. In an ideal world, people would simply passionately love the team and players. Giving them their full support in good times and bad. But, to be a bit cliche here, there is no love without hate. And in real life, sometimes our passion makes us do crazy things, like throw candy at people (or write a time consuming blog for no money). We want people to be more passionate about football? Then we must be prepared for the occasional stupid person to do the occasional stupid thing.
Patriotism and Culture – As many of you know, image and face-saving is very important in Korean culture. Korea’s national image (at least as a footballing nation) took a hit at the World Cup. And for some, that translates into, the country’s image as a whole has taken a hit. And if you know any Koreans/have been in Korea you know that this is a very sensitive issue, and that many Koreans will go to great lengths to protect it. You may disagree with how this patriotism manifests itself, but that’s a different issue.
Perspective – It’s been brought up, in hindsight, that the expectations were too high. That other, bigger teams, also were eliminated in the group stage. These two things were used to show the pointlessness/stupidity of the protests. The former is slightly valid. The latter not so much. Yes, teams like Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ghana, Croatia, England, and Japan were all knocked out. But relatively speaking their performances were better than Korea’s. Plus they faced different teams making comparisons slightly less valid. The expectations thing is a somewhat valid point. Yes, expectations were too high, but as someone reminded me on Twitter, the team, players, and staff all pushed those expectations as well. Round of 16? We can do it. Why not push on further? Even Park Ji-Sung said they should aim for the semifinals because the 2002 team already got the county there before. Fans should have expected poor showings, but the team didn’t do much to damper those hopes (at least in the press).