How could I know our guys would go so far?

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How could I know our guys would go so far?

It was last summer, June 25, and the country was going crazy because Korea was about to play Germany in the World Cup semifinals. The red shirts were crowding the City Hall square to watch the game on the big screen TVs. And I was on a plane to Singapore.

Long before the World Cup started, I had decided that I wanted to go to Switzerland. When I bought my ticket, I had the World Cup schedule in mind, and reasoned that Korea would be eliminated before June 25.

So after the national team beat Spain in the quarterfinals, I was in a predicament. I thought about canceling the trip, but decided not to after learning that I would have to pay a penalty of 150,000 won ($125).

My trip to Switzerland was routed through Singapore. Fortunately, during the layover in the airport there, I was able to watch the Korea-Germany game live. There was a big TV and a big crowd of people gazing up at it. Most of them were Asians, and about a third seemed to be Koreans. They were all doing the "Dae-han-min-guk" cheer -- even the Singaporeans, the Chinese and the Japanese. I felt like I was back in Korea.

I found a seat where I could watch the game and sat down. Next to me was a white man who was watching the game intently. I just thought he was a sports fan, but before long I figured out that he was German. I took some German in high school, so I could tell that his cheers and groans were in German.

Aware that he was outnumbered, he restrained his emotions. When the Korean team was about to score, he got extremely nervous.

And when the German team scored the only goal of the match a "yay!" escaped his lips, but he quickly muffled it.

After the game, most of us Asians were disappointed, but he was smiling.

Still, I felt sorry for him, because the circumstances were stopping him from enjoying the moment. So I turned and said, "Congratuations!" He looked surprised, but then he smiled back at me and we started talking.

"I'm so happy now," he said. "Finally we are going to the finals!"

He didn't forget to be gracious and praise the other team. "The Korean team was so great that I wasn't sure we could win. I think we were very lucky."

How did I feel? Strange. I was sad that the national team lost, but somehow relieved that it wouldn't be playing in the World Cup final while I was away in Switzerland.

by Park Sung-ha
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