...damn those reds! damn them!
To say that Korea loves soccer is an understatement. According to one source, there were apparently 1.5 million people in the streets around Korea to watch today's game against Switzerland. And while soccer is not my favorite thing in the world, I will cheer and scream and jump and sing if in a huge crowd watching the game together.
Due to the crappy time difference between Korea and Germany, however, the last two games started at 4 am. Kids were coming into class exhausted because they a) stayed up all night or b) woke up just before the game.
Even though this game was at 4 am, it was on a weekend night so we finally made it to City Hall in Seoul for a World Cup viewing. Seven of us (me, Wayne, Scott, Matt, his gf, Mina and Eunice) piled into Matt's car to hang out in Seoul until 4 am when the game would start.
Eunice and Mina squished together
I had to sit on Wayne's lap. He is a dirty, dirty man.
Here is the traffic going into Seoul. I don't even remember how long it took, that's how long it took.
We went to Dongdaemun Stadium, a major shopping area, first to buy red shirts and other assorted accessories. Then we had dinner in a tiny little booth. Street food is the best.
Dongdaemun from the "restaurant."
Then we made our trek to Gwanghwamun, near city hall for the major celebration. After waiting in traffic for a long time and a few illegal maneuvers, we made it and got a parking space less than 50 yards from the Sejong Performing Arts Center.
Wall of mini-Korean flags.
The fancy flag on the Sejong PAC.
We had to pass behind the big stage to get where we were going and this was the first performer to keep everyone awake...circa 1 am.
Then we came to the part that was definitely the most uncomfortable of the night: trying to find a place to sit among hundreds of thousands, according to one source 700,000 in Seoul alone, of screaming, tired, and many of them slightly drunken Korean soccer fans.
This is what we had to work with:
This image is from Chosun Ilbo, but it's the only one I could find of an aerial view.
I WAS THERE!
So you can imagine how much elbowing, pardoning ourselves, trying to ignore dirty looks, and squeezing past policemen and security guards to get the good seats we finagled (deceitful, indeed).
Statue of...that guy...completely surrounded by a sea of devil-worshippers. Er...Korean soccer fans.
Looking the other way. All you see is red.
Fireworks, not fire, to celebrate kickoff. Is that even what it's called? I don't know.
Scott and I were the only white people as far as I could see.
Since the game started at 4 am, of course around halftime the sun started coming up. You can see the mountain in the background.
As you can see from many of the other pictures, there are lots of buildings with these huge soccer posters/advertisements. I don't know what Cheonggye Plaza is, but apparently it's straight ahead.
See? More advertisements. There were also three huge TV screens to watch the game in this general vicinity, depending on which way you were facing.
Statue of the one guy again in the morning.
And thusly, the game was over. Notice that there is nobody jumping up and down and screaming? No fireworks? Neither pomp nor circumstance? No other such celebration?
Yes. You are not mistaken. There was none because..well. We lost. We lost pretty bad. To qualify for the next round, Korea had to win their game or France had to lose theirs.
And so Korea's place in the 2006 World Cup is over.
I will say this though: Korea is full of the most gracious losers I have ever seen. Until about the last 10 minutes or so, energy was running high and no one really gave up hope. That last 10 minutes, people started lining up to get out of there.
And when everything was said and done, everyone bent down to pick up their trash, quietly, respectfully, put on their shoes, and left without another word. There were some general murmurings, yes, but had it been in America, and had it been any sport other than soccer, fires would have erupted, cars would have been tipped and the foreigners beaten down.
I had a good time, and it's a good thing I went because I will probably never do anything like that for the rest of my life.