[FOUNTAIN]Hares and strikersIn the world of fables, a rabbit is usually depicted as an animal with tricks rather than honesty. The tricky reputation of the rabbits is not much different in Togo in West Africa.
The hare was a lazy animal that did not work hard and always borrowed things from other animals, especially the generous elephant and hippopotamus. When the elephant and the hippopotamus had had enough of the hare and voiced their displeasure, the hare forgot about all the favors he had enjoyed and turned cranky. The hare gave one end each of a rope made of arrowroot vines to the elephant and the hippopotamus and tricked them into thinking they would find treasure if they pulled the rope. Without realizing that they were given the same rope, the elephant did its best to pull the rope from the woods and the hippopotamus did the same from the river. After a while, the exhausted elephant got thirsty and went down to the river just as the hippopotamus got out of the water. When they realized that they had been tricked, the hare was long gone.
In 1884, Gustav Nachtigal, a German consul in Tunis, visited a small fishing village in Togo. In the language of the Ewe people, Togo means “a village by a river.” Nachtigal had a brief conversation with Plakkou, who was an envoy for Mlapa, the King of Togo. Plakkou, who was illiterate, signed “X” on a document in which King Mlapa requested the protection of the kaiser of Germany. That document made Togo a German protectorate. In the following year, at the Berlin Conference that formalized the scramble for Africa, Germany’s claim to Togo was officially recognized. That’s how Togo, which was the name of a village, became the name of the country.
It is the nature of a fable that those who use tricks end up paying for their games. But the Togolese rabbit fables do not have a good-triumphs-over-evil moral. Having tricked the large animals, the hare could have had a hard time. But the hare in the Togolese fable drives the elephant and the hippopotamus away and takes the rich territory all for itself.
The behavior of the Togolese football team is repeating the fable. The players, who are more interested in compensation than in sport, and the government, which has failed to win the trust of the team, are no different from the elephant and the hippopotamus pulling on a rope. Each side seems to believe that it can outwit the other. I take pride in the Korean players who turned in good performances despite many difficulties. Good luck to the current national team, which will feel 10 times more pressure than the amount of the promised rewards.
by Lee Hoon-beom
The writer is the head of the JoongAng Ilbo’s weekend news team.