Korea’s first group match finished with a 1-1 draw against a well-organized Russia. While football fans around the world might not have been entertained/impressed with the Group H encounter, it certaintly mattered for us folks here at the Tavern and Korean supporters everywhere.
At around 10 in the morning, I could hear the Red Devils do a soundcheck about three blocks from house. Once I heard the preparations taking place, I had a feeling mixed of excitement, nostalgia, and anticipation. It was a feeling that would make you think although it’s been a rough year for the Taeguk Warriors, it wouldn’t matter once the KNT was on the pitch. Everything including the dark age of CKH, PJY’s wasteful term at Arsenal, and the past two friendlies, would be purged through our love of country and the beautiful game.
After lunch, I headed out to the viewing party to find a seat on the grass. I was expecting more people to show up, but less than half of the seating area was filled up. Normally, Koreatown would start celebrating about five hours before the opening game, but today was very different. The game is important more than anything, but it was dissapointing to see that there were problems with the mic, screen, and the lack of people providing the atmosphere I was expecting.
The pre-game festivities seemed more like a conference than anything. We were told to be seated whenever we stood up. The man holding the microphone didn’t seem to have any excitement in his voice, and whenever he tried to lead a chant, none of us followed along. The unpredictability and the joy you would expect seemed nonexistent. We were told that if any of us weren’t feeling well, there would be a nurse on standby, And for anyone 21 and older, alcohol was not permitted. That’s probably a good thing though.
We started off with 10 seconds of silence for the victims of the recent Sewol tragedy. A couple of dance groups came out to perform, but problems persisted with the sound monitors and the crowd didn’t seem amused. ” Awkward!”, a man in red shouted.
Several Russian supporters were seated and I was able to hear one Russian fan aptly state that “Koreans are only good whenever the Olympics happen, and not football.” They would be proven wrong (see Igor Akinfeev howler). Once the game started, things changed quickly. The seating area became packed and emotions changed quickly. All of us were immediately glued to the screen.
When Lee-Keun Ho came on for Son-Heung Min, I wasn’t too pleased. Would we see American football again? Hell no. Russian goalie Igor Akinfeev misjudged and we were arguably granted with a bit of luck, but it was beautiful to see Lee score. According to Forza Italian Football, HMB was quoted as saying, “I planned for Lee Keun-Ho to come on because I knew Russia’s defenders would be tired. He then did his job well and scored a goal.”.
After the equaliser, we all had our teeth gritted and COULD NOT stand to see another goal. Luckily, it ended with 1-1 with 4 minutes of stoppage time.
Korea’s next match is on Sunday June 22/23 against Algeria (US 3 PM EST, Korea 4 AM). It’s a must win for us. Daehanminguk fighting! Peace out, and stay tuned.