Sunday, 13 June 2010

World Cup fever in Korea

After a slow build up here World Cup fever finally hit South Korea. Yesterday saw Korea play and beat Greece convincingly, 2-0. I watched the game at home with my wife. We stocked up on beer and fried chicken and sat down to enjoy.

My wife doesn't really care about sport but I twisted her arm to try and get her involved and she ended up loving watching the game. Koreans really do go full out when supporting their side and proudly display their colour (red) in force with people wearing t-shirts or waving banners/plastic banging things.

Before the game we were downtown and it was pretty hectic in the build up but I am glad we didn't watch the game on a big screen somewhere. I did that in 2006 and wanted a more intimate atmosphere this time. I don't know if Korea will get out of the group stages but now they have a good chance. Expectations though are probably too high with the team here. I hope they progress as it will make the tournament experience much greater for me.

On Friday I made a point of asking every student in my classes who was going to win the World Cup. Some didn't take it seriously and 95% said Korea. When I asked them why they said "Because I am Korean". My students don't yet understand the difference between what they think is going to happen and what they want to, or they just ignore it. The annoying thing was that when one student said Korean, the others automatically followed suit. I thought I was in communist China or even North Korea for a moment. As always a group mentality prevails here.

I am happy to say that my youngest group of kids took it the most seriously and gave answers as diverse as Spain, Argentina, The Netherlands, and Brazil. My experience and conclusion (not based on my scratch survery) after over four years here is that Koreans in general don't like sport but like to be associated with victory/success/glory and the average person here has little or no knowledge of sport outside baseball. When they have a player or athelte that is famous/successful then they follow this person, i.e. Kim Yu-Na the wonderful skater. There is no culture of sport here but things are slowly changing and I guess it takes success to start the ball rolling but this nation is very different from Europe.

Regarding England, what a dreadful start and not just the appalling goal for the USA. The whole performance was demoralising. Such a contrast to the vibrant Koreans

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