[FOUNTAIN]For a moment we all soared

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[FOUNTAIN]For a moment we all soared

The sinking sun laid down a long shadow, and people could not believe what was transpiring before their eyes. On the black scoreboard flared the numbers 2 and 1, in striking yellow. The lead lasted just about 10 minutes before the tie, but that brief moment could not have been sweeter for the Korean national team, considering whom they fought against Sunday -- the invincible French. The memory of the 5 to 0 crushing just one year ago by the winner of the 1998 World Cup was still vivid in the minds of Koreans.

France eventually won the game, 3 to 2. But not a single Korean -- player or spectator -- was disappointed. At the end of the game the crowd that jammed the Suwon World Cup stadium gave a standing ovation. When Seol Ki-hyeon added a header to Park Ji-sung's open kick, my boy who was seated beside me welled up: "Is this a dream?" he asked in tears. In Gwanghwamun, downtown Seoul and farm houses in the provinces, people shared the joy, which blew away the complex that had shackled Korean soccer players for too long. People forgot, at least for a moment, the nation's struggles in the wake of the 1998 financial collapse.

The match was a good demonstration of what we expect from the World Cup soccer games. Even if the Korean national team fails to make it to the next round, if the players generate that kind of energy by doing their best, that would mark a splendid accomplishment.

The financial effect of World Cup matches differs in accordance with the amount of energy or the way it is emitted. According to the May 21 issue of the International Herald Tribune, France, the site of the 1998 Cup, experienced a burst of national pride associated with the victory which brought a short lived but substantial jolt to the economy.

In 1998, the French stock market rose nearly 40 percent in the first half of the year, and the economy grew 3.3 percent, the highest since the mid-1990s. In South Korea, the World Cup organizing committee expects a stimulus of 8.8 trillion won ($6.9 billion) and the creation of 350,000 jobs, the Herald Tribune reported. The financial estimates can be changed according to the amount of energy the World Cup games generate.

Bill Shankly, the English soccer legend, said: "Soccer isn't a matter of life and death, it's more important than that!" The 45,000 soccer fans who crowded the Suwon stadium may well have agreed with him.

Several days have passed, but it is not enough time to slake my excitement. Let the games begin.



The writer is the JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

by Sohn Byoung-soo

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