Inappropriate behavior shames the national youth teamNot steroids. Not unqualified referees. Not lukewarm beer. Not bean balls. Not drunken fans. Not agents. Not male cheerleaders. Not even greedy owners can hurt sports as much as ― you guessed it ― nationalism. True, there is the Olympics, which could be described as the pinnacle of nationalism in sports, but even there participants try to limit their nationalistic displays to waving flags.
In light of the Dokdo Islets affair, sports exchanges between Seoul and Tokyo are suffering. College and amateur games have been canceled, while other events are also in danger of being scrapped. And there seems to be no end to these senseless acts.
When the national youth soccer team beat Egypt this week, the players did the most inappropriate thing they could have done. They celebrated in front of a prepared placard that had “Dokdo is ours!” written on it. This happened with the endorsement of the coach. Now what kind of amoeba brain would have agreed to let such a thing happen? Everybody seemed to enjoy the view except for the beaten Egyptians, who must have been wondering what all the ballyhoo was about.
When statements regarding the territorial dispute were issued by South Korean officials it was assured that economic and cultural ties would be nurtured. Puleeeeze. To say it was not a realistic assessment of the situation at hand is an understatement. How can anyone forget that every single individual in this nation can sing the “Dokdo is ours” song even after downing two bottles of soju?
This thing has the look of a full blown “I HATE ANYTHING JAPANESE!” affair.
My friend drives a Honda. He wishes he had never bought it. The car is now parked under maximum security since someone engraved “Dokdo is ours!” neatly on the car’s trunk for everyone to see. He wears sunglasses when he enters or drives his car. At night.
If Korea and Japan were to play a soccer game right now I could only expect the worst. Patriot-like missile systems would be needed to intercept all the objects thrown; the military reserves would have to be mobilized; it would be an affair little short of war. Scores would be meaningless. Tackles, preferably head-level, would become the measurement of success that day. The “Man of the Match” would be the one who stepped ― accidentally of course ― on an injured player lying on the ground. Corner kicks would be utilized to take a free shot at the goalie. Anyone playing soft would be benched. A full regiment of paramedics would have to stand by.
Let’s hope it does not come to this because if it does we should be ashamed of ourselves. If we perform acts that are driven by colossal stupidity then what we are getting is only worse, and where would that leave us?
Sports exchanges with Japan should not be canceled. They should be played on schedule and officials should lay out clear guidelines for the games so that our visitors can feel like they have simply played just another game.
What we need are role models, and athletes can become them if they show the public that they can separate their feelings from their jobs. Otherwise, an athlete swallowed up by public emotion is only a role player. And we have enough of those.
by Biran Lee