June 14, 2010

...just like a wavin flag... (pt I)

South Korea 2 Greece 0

Back in February I was cheering on Canada cramped up against the ceiling of RMT in itaewon. I cheered my little heart out as we won, why? There is just something about international competition. Nationalism peaks at these points and it’s always something that you remember.

Well, it’s World Cup time. Although I can’t drape myself in the red maple leaf, I can witness another countries obsession with a sport. Thankfully I didn’t have to witness it cramped in a tiny bar. I headed to Seoul Plaza @ City Hall in Seoul. I was forced to meet my friends at city hall, finding them was not easy. The subway station was packed with fans, and vendors hocking all types of garb and noisemakers. The crowd was monitored by the police who blocked me at several subway exits. I was forced to walk the streets to gain my access to city hall. I honestly didn’t think I would find my friends amidst the people. I was frustrated and wet, although I was quickly lifted by the crowd.
The atmosphere was electric. The cheers and chants went on despite the rain that steadily fell. Most people wore body condoms to keep the rain off their clothes; I didn’t make the same purchase and held my umbrella up occasionally. That’s right the giant weigook held up an umbrella to further prevent the tiny Koreans from seeing the screens. I’m a horrible person, I know, at least the umbrella was see through. The Koreans would wave red inflated noisemakers and inflated hands to the rythems of the cheers. As the night wore on, and darkness fell, the crowd transformed into a sea of glowing red horns. These cheap LED lights were everywhere, and they were cheap $2. I paid $10 when i saw AC/DC.

The game itself was intense; the fans never seemed to stop cheering. The few moments of silence were quickly interrupted when some Korean over the loudspeakers started up another cheer. I didn’t think that Korea would score. Yet I knew if they did this place would go nuts, and when Korea did score, boy was i right. The picture of me chugging Hite was actually take moments before Ji Sung Park scored Korea’s second goal (you can see my eyes on the screen, not on the camera). The crowd went insane in the moments after that picture, people jumped up and down screaming for a couple minutes solid. Ji Sung Park is a Korean hero. He is the most famous Korean footballer, he plays midfield for Manchester United, and every time the he was shown on the screens the crowd would chant his name.

One of my friends was able to secure a two four of Hite beer in tall cans. We proceeded to drink along with the other Koreans that surrounded us. By the end of the game I’d say most of the people were drunk, but at the very least they were high after their nation’s victory. The crowd after the game was amazing. I spent the last 20 minutes of the game silently suffering, because I had to go pee (eerily similar to the other time I mentioned peeing in my blog, what’s wrong with me??). Anywho, I wasn’t going to miss the final whistle for anything, let alone my bladders pleas for release. After the game I quickly made my way to the bathroom. I knew the crowd in Seoul Plaza was huge, yet it was in my efforts to reach the bathroom that I realized that there were people everywhere, and not just in the plaza. The mass of people spread outward around the plaza.

"Back in South Korea, where nearly one million people watched the game at public gatherings, a busy Seoul boulevard turned into a sea of red with screams of joy reverberating among the tall buildings. Strangers hugged each other in elation and jumped in unison." TSN article..

I have been I Korea for 4 months now, and I have never seen Koreans like this. This is not the Korea i'm used to. They are usually drunk, yes this is normal! but they are quiet drunks. Saturday night the streets were filled with Korean’s loudly cheering and chanting. It was awesome to witness. That game was something that I’m not likely to forget. Their next game is Thursday night at 8.30. I work till 9 and will not be able to be at City Hall, I will however try to get to World Cup stadium to catch the second half. If they make it through to the round of 16 that would truly be something to witness.

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