I went to a soccer game. April resolution: Update this blog more often, so that the memories will be fresh in your head!
So yes, I went to a soccer game, but not just any game. This match was North Korea vs. South Korea. This was the second the qualifying match between the two Koreas for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. North Korea had won the first time around, and going into the game, most soccer afficianados said that NK was going to try for a draw this game, so it wouldn’t be that exciting. Nonetheless, a bunch of us got tickets to the game and schleped to World Cup Stadium, on the other side of the city. The massive stadium is absolutely gorgeous.
Our seats were behind the goal, albeit many rows up. The game itself was mostly uneventful. I’m telling you, Koreans have got to be the most unathletic people in the world. Trust me, I teach dodgeball, soccer and Frisbee. For most of the game, the most exciting part was counting how many different North Korean players had to be carried off the field on stretchers before immediately getting back up and walking back on the field. There was no serious action until a couple minutes before the end of the entire game. Shocking everyone in the stands, substitute Kim Chi Woo knocked a goal past the North Korean goalie, Lee Woon Jae. The crowd went absolutely wild! I filmed the whole thing with my camera, but of course, missed the ball actually going in. However, simply missing it on my camera is nothing compared to missing the actual goal being scored, as I did in Munich in June.
The win not only put the South one point ahead of the North in its division, but landed South Korea at the top of the five-team group.
A couple of days after the game, North Korea started accusing South Korean officials of poisoning its players. While this is a completely ridiculous claim, it’s not terribly surprising that people could get sick eating Korean food in this city. Just sayin’…
What I found most interesting about the entire evening was that the match happened at a time when political tensions were at their highest, just days before North Korea was set to launch a rocket, against repeated demands from the international community that the launch be canceled. Despite the fact that a war with the North is a possibility these days, the air at the stadium was relaxed and friendly. Well, except for when the crowd booed the North. But everyone boos his opponent, right?
And while nobody got nuked at World Cup Stadium that night, I did don sunglasses and a scowl and repeatedly claim, “I’m Kim Jong Il!
In a nutshell and two weeks later, that was the game. It was definitely a good time, made even better by the fact that we made it out alive and un-nuked. Don’t know whether I’ll be back to another soccer match; after all, it’s baseball season now!