[NOTEBOOK]The World Cup is here, so enjoy it

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[NOTEBOOK]The World Cup is here, so enjoy it

I think it is pretty safe to say that there is almost no chance that Korea will host the World Cup again while I am alive. I am just so happy and overwhelmed with joy that I am writing this at a time when the 2002 World Cup has just begun. Needless to say, delivering the news from the spot where this historic event is unfolding is quite a blessing for me and, I suspect, for all Koreans.

I can almost feel the tension of the previous World Cup in 1998. The screaming of the crowd and the excitement of the matches are still ringing in my ears when I think of those days four years ago. I am relieved now that what I was only able to feel by myself back then I can now share with my fellow Koreans.

It's time for celebration and if we want to celebrate we should do it right. Whenever our national team is playing there is always someone who bets that Korea will lose. The logic here is that it doesn't matter whether Korea loses. If the team wins, it's good because it's the home country, and if it does not, the bet is won. Some criticize those people who bet against Korea, but this is just another way to enjoy the matches.

One way to really enjoy the event is to quickly realize that not one single match in the World Cup is meaningless. Some might consider matches between Slovenia and South Africa or Uruguay and Denmark as boring and unimportant. Those people should bear in mind that these countries have beaten out fierce competition to be here. In their own right they are by no means weak countries but strong ones that have fought in the trenches to make it here, and people should realize that and not dismiss them so easily simply by their names.

Another way to enjoy the World Cup is to select a specific team or player to cheer for. Watching matches of teams that have no personal attachment to the viewer is absolutely no fun. Everyone should pick a team from each group to make it more interesting.

Those who have succeeded in securing a ticket are really lucky people. The most basic pleasure is to watch a match that is played at a high level -- in person. Besides, doing so this year provides the pleasures of viewing the world's best stadiums as well. Few things in life are better than enjoying a match in a state-of-the-art facility and watching -- and hearing -- fans screaming their lungs out.

Feeling the atmosphere and becoming part of the match is probably the best bonus one can get when going to the World Cup. Nevertheless, don't be sad or mad when you don't have tickets, for there are plenty of ways to enjoy yourself.

First, go to one of the stadiums three hours before a match and feel the excitement around it. Looking at the countless supporters for each country will give you a great deal of enjoyment. Watching old men dressed up in soccer gear singing and dancing about with younger people will surely lift one's spirits and make one forget his own age.

If one wants to become one of the Red Devils and join the ranks of the tireless supporters of the national team, the creme de la creme of the cheering squads, this is your chance. If you don't have the red T-shirt; just paint your white one and go to Gwanghwamun and watch the matches on a giant screen.

If you are too shy or too lazy to do that, watch the matches in your office or in a coffee shop and cheer along with the crowd. However, if you are a person who has to curse at every setback of your favorite team, please do everyone a favor and stay at home. A person who acts this way might think he is relieving his stress, but he is in fact stressing out others by doing so much swearing.

For those who still cannot find one single reason to watch the matches, please don't raise your voice and complain about the television channels being dominated by soccer because nobody will listen to you. Better just rent a bunch of movies on video that you always wanted to watch, for it will be a long time before you will have a chance to once again put your hands on the television's remote control.

Reading a book might be another way to spend some time. Or, why not simply go away on a trip? Anywhere is good -- except for the 10 cities that are staging the matches. You probably will not be welcome there.

The party has begun, and it's a win-win deal for everyone who lives in or visits Korea.


The writer is a deputy sports news editor the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Sohn Jang-hwan

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