중앙데일리

French soccer champs hold court

July 25,2007
France’s Olympique Lyonnais pose with young fans at the Novotel Ambassador in Gangnam, southern Seoul on July 20.
Friday night at the Novotel Ambassador Hotel’s Champagne Room, a crowd anxious to see their soccer star heroes included everyone from small children in shorts to distinguished-looking businessmen in expensive suits.
Many held new soccer balls as they waited for the arrival of Olympique Lyonnais, or Lyon, the six-time champions of the French Ligue 1, a world- class soccer league.
On Saturday Lyon captured Korea’s Peace Cup with a 1-0 victory over the English Premier League Bolton Wanderers, winning $2 million for the title.
The adults sipped champagne, appropriate, given the name of the room, trying to appear cool and immune from being star-struck.
The children had no such qualms, pulling at the arms of their parents, begging to know when the championship team would arrive.
The French Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which sponsored the event, had carefully crafted a French atmosphere, complete with tuxedoed waiters and quiche canapes.
When the team strolled in in full uniform, a fashionable half hour late, all pretense of adult maturity was swept away.
Cameras flashed. Children and businessmen rushed the team, nervously requesting autographs on soccer balls.
The media did its best to elbow through the cluster of fans to click pictures and fire off questions.
Lyon vice-captain Gregory Coupet managed to find a corner of the room, where he was hemmed in by fans.
“I hope we can recuperate enough to win tomorrow,” he said.
Clearly they did, as his team took home the $2 million. Bolton won $500,000 for second place.
“This is the third time I’ve been to Korea,” said team veteran Sidney Govou, between signing autographs and smiling for the cameras. “It’s not bad,” he added, somewhat exhaustedly.
Coach Alain Perrin was more diplomatic.
“Both the Japanese and the Koreans played great matches,” he said. “The Korean team [Seongnam Chunma] is efficient and energetic.”
The French theme continued later in an adjacent dining room as the waiters rolled out the escargot and the beef bourguignonne.
In his speech, the president of the Lyon club, Jean-Michel Aulas, proceeded to recount the club’s story in detail, down to the square footage of its offices, as eyelids grew heavy around the room.
“I hope we can also open the Peace Cup in Europe,” he said, parroting the desires of the biennial tournament’s organizers, who wish to hold it outside of Korea in 2009 for the first time.


By Richard Scott-Ashe Contributing Writer [richard@joongang.co.kr]



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