Ambassador hopes injuries won’t doom England again
The 2006 World Cup appears no different for English men in cleats since 1966, when they captured what has so far been the nation’s only World Cup title. The team’s star striker, Wayne Rooney, injured his foot barely a month before the tournament, and the team was already dealing with injuries to other top players such as Michael Owen and Ashley Cole.
Still, said Warwick Morris, the British Ambassador to Seoul, England’s mood is one of “hope, excitement and anticipation.”
“Soccer excitement reaches a fever pitch every four years as the World Cup approaches,” Mr. Morris wrote in an e-mail interview with the JoongAng Daily. “The fitness of our top players has long been a subject of lively discussion in pubs, homes and workplaces.”
Mr. Morris, in his third tour of duty in Korea and the ambassador here since November 2003, was more cautious about predicting how the English team will perform because of a series of injuries, and said, “I believe that England can win, but to do so they will need a lot of nerve and more than a bit of luck.”
Mr. Morris, who said he will be at home in the United Kingdom during the World Cup, was a bit more upbeat in discussing the British-Korean bilateral relationship, which he said has developed into “a mutually beneficial partnership.”
“British and Korean products and services are popular in both countries,” he said, “and our businesses successfully collaborate together.”
Though he was also encouraged by growing bilateral trade and investment between the two sides, Mr. Morris expressed concern about the business environment in Korea.
“If Korea is serious about becoming a business hub, it must speed up liberation of its financial and legal services,” the envoy said, “and be more consistent in its attitude toward foreign investors, which means providing the facilities, such as international schools, that such investors need.”
Mr. Morris went on to say Britain and Korea both excel in science, research and innovation, while education, sport and cultural links also continue to grow. He also said it is “a great shame” that many British people still know little about Korea, but added he is delighted Korea has designated this year to be “Think Korea” year in Britain and is promoting Korea to the British public.
For its part, added Mr. Morris, the British Embassy is also working to raise awareness of Britain here and to “highlight many sides of our modern, innovative, dynamic and diverse country.”
And the game of soccer could be a significant factor in the two sides’ bilateral relations. Two Korean national team players, Park Ji-sung and Lee Young-pyo, are playing for Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, respectively, in the English Premier League.
Their matches are carried live in Korea via satellite, and some commentators have even called the two clubs “our teams.” Mr. Morris said he feels the duo have become important figures in the relations between the two countries.
“Both players have been fantastic ambassadors for their country, winning widespread praise for their talent, skills and professionalism,” he said. “I am sure that supporters of both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur will be following the progress of the Korean team in Germany very closely.”
The British envoy went on to emphasize the importance of sports on the whole.
“Sport has a tremendous power to unify people and the World Cup is an opportunity for us all to learn more about one another,” Mr. Morris said. “It is natural to want to know more about the countries represented and I hope that will lead to greater understanding.”
Mr. Morris said he is glad Britain continues to be a popular destination for Korean tourists and students. He said Britain’s historical heritage, modern structures and cultural diversity makes Britain “a unique tourist destination,” and added the country is working hard “to make sure Korean students know all about the high quality of education” in Britain, which has improved its visa system to make it easier for students to study as well as do part-time work in Britain.
“There is so much to see and do wherever you are in the United Kingdom,” Mr. Morris said, “including watching a soccer match.”
by Yoo Jee-ho