[FOUNTAIN]Bah, humbug!It must have been very hot in June that summer. It must have been frustrating to spend several days on board a ship while landing permission was delayed. The crews of the Flying Fish, a British survey ship, played soccer on the deck. But the 67-ton ship must have been too small for that. The sailors stealthily got off the ship and kicked the ball at the Yeonan Pier in the port of Incheon. Surprised at the noise, Joseon soldiers roused them and the sailors hurriedly returned to the ship. They forgot to take their equipment with them, and a soccer ball was left behind. The children who were watching the whole scene took the ball and started to play with it. In 1882, soccer arrived in Korea very quietly.
While its entrance was not very grand, soccer became the absolute ruler of the country a century later. In the name of the World Cup, Koreans line up to watch a football tournament in June every four years in front of televisions, at the City Hall Plaza and at local theaters.
We are not allowed to deny or criticize the sport. Four years ago, a brave citizen came out and made a confession that he hated the World Cup. Park Chan-wook, the acclaimed director of “Lady Vengeance,” said, “Everybody was talking about football and I had absolutely no one to play with. There were no interesting shows on television.” He said that he felt lonely and understood how children often bullied at school felt. “I even had a nightmare that my mouth was torn apart when I cried out, ‘I hate the World Cup.’” But even Mr. Park later became a member of the Korea-Japan World Cup History Compilation Committee.
The World Cup is a sporting event that demands absolute devotion and shows no mercy to turncoats.
The Times of London noted four World Cup-free zones; American Samoa, Alaska, Switzerland and North Korea. American Samoa is ranked last in the FIFA ranking at 205th. Alaska is 12 hours behind Germany, so all the games will be over by the time Alaskans get out of bed. The Swiss government promotes various tourist programs for “World Cup widows.” North Korea is free from the World Cup because there will be no coverage.
Korea is heated up with the excitement about the World Cup. There is a frightening rumor that when Team Korea does not make the round of 16, all Koreans will be panicked and the country will fall into the worst national crisis of the century.
It’s up to you whether to believe the theory or not, but for some reason, I yearn for a shower to cool us down.
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.