[Meanwhile] The never-ending ‘last dance’

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[Meanwhile] The never-ending ‘last dance’

The author is the contents production editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

It has already been more than 10 days since the 2022 Qatar World Cup ended. I can’t remember how I stayed up all night and watched three games from late evening to early morning the next day. Who was the one who missed the penalty shootout? I cannot remember.

These moments are forgotten very quickly. But some things remain unforgotten. It’s the phrase, “last dance.” This is not a prom, but a term to describe the appearances of many players in their mid-30s, such as Roberto Lewandowski (Poland), Luca Modric (Croatia), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) and Lionel Messi (Argentina).

Since when have we said “last dance?” There was a time it referred to Sharon Stone’s 1996 movie or Gunter Grass’ 2004 novel. Then, “last dance” began to be frequently used when Kim Yuna competed in the Sochi Winter Games in 2014 for the last time before her retirement. After that it disappeared for a while, only to prevail as it was used as the title of Michael Jordan’s Netflix documentary in 2020.

In fact, the phrase better suited NBA’s Chicago Bulls and head coach Phil Jackson than Jordan himself. Predicting the fall of the Chicago Dynasty. Jackson distributed a diary to the players before the 1997-98 season. The title of the diary was “Last Dance.”

The media’s obsession with “last dance” resulted in self-contradiction at the Qatar World Cup. It is supposed to be the “last” dance, but the media said, “see them again,” “continue,” and “lasting.”

Did the players really think it was their last dance? Messi said after the Qatar World Cup that he would like to play a few more games for the national team. Wasn’t the World Cup his “last dance”?

Sometimes, athletes announce their retirement from the national team. They often say, “I’d like to open up opportunities for younger players.” But they continue their athletic career. In 2016, Messi announced his retirement from the national team after the Copa America and withdrew.

Whenever I see such a player, I am reminded of Lee Dong-gook. Ahead of the 2018 Russia World Cup, the attention was on whether he would make the team. As he was 38 years old at that time, some said he was “old and greedy.” But Lee said, “Until a player retires, he should have the dream to make the national team.” That could be right. The “last dance” is always more wonderful and valuable when it comes suddenly without a notice.
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