I. Love. Watching. Soccer. (My Hooligans back home in Albany know what’s up).
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know that this weekend (Sunday) was the women’s Republic of Korea vs. People’s Democratic Republic of Korea soccer game for the EAFF East Asian Cup. I eagerly bought tickets for a couple of reasons, the most prevalent being the “soccer diplomacy” connotations and the fact that I just miss watching soccer live.
(My friends are displeased that I don’t mention them on my blog so I’ll do them one better. Here’s a picture):
We donned our matching jerseys (as you can see above) and picked up our tickets at the Seoul World Cup Stadium. Our seats were incredibly close to the pitch (3rd row, I was briefly concerned that they were too close to see everything) and on midfield. The game began at 6:15pm and it became immediately apparent that we were in for a treat. The sheer athleticism of both teams left me unsure of who I was cheering for, and the gameplay was so fast-paced that you really didn’t have time to think about that either way.
I found myself involuntarily jumping up and cheering when Ha Un-Byol of North Korea scored the first of her two spectacular goals and then 20 seconds later I returned to egging on the quickly-tiring South Korean team.
At halftime, a student reporter asked me and my friends if we felt that the game had any political undertones. And, you know what? I didn’t care who won or lost, and neither did anyone else in the stands: impressive soccer is impressive soccer, regardless of which side you’re rooting for or for what reason. People like to make a bigger deal out of it than need be, and we were just there to see a great game.
The game ended 2-1 with a North Korean win and, since our tickets were good for both games that day, we stuck around for the 9pm game: men’s Japan vs. China. The stands around us filled up with fans and we became instantly aware that we were wedged between factions of Japanese and Chinese fans.
The first 3-4 rows in our section were made up of predominantly Japan fans and just about everything behind that was a sea of people rooting for China. As I said, we were in the third row, which means that everyone behind us could only see that we were wearing red, and assumed that meant that we were rooting for China, and everyone in front of us couldn’t see our jerseys unless they turned around. (It should be noted that almost all of the people in the stadium were concentrated on our side, behind us, so the stadium looks incredibly empty in pictures because there, for whatever reason, was almost nobody on the other side).
One of my friends, Christina, is Chinese and so we all started off the game cheering for China. If you know soccer at all, you know that most predictions for this game went in Japan’s favor, so we thought we might as well cheer for the underdog. Upon China’s first goal, we all jumped up and cheered and the Japanese fans in front of us turned around, and then did a double take.
You could tell upon a first glance they saw the red jerseys and didn’t think much of it, then upon the second look read “KOREA” on our chests and became instantaneously confused by the two high-fiving Koreans, cheering Canadian, Chinese girl, and super tall Dutch boy, all in Korean jerseys, celebrating for China.
Things got more confusing when Japan started picking up the pace and made me fear for what the South Korean team is in store for next week. These were just so many impressive things happening that you can’t help but cheer for. So…we (minus Christina) subconsciously started cheering for Japan. They scored a goal, we started cheering and high-fiving the fans in front of us.
Another one! And another!
More cheers, more high fives, more confusion from those behind us.
Then the score was 3-1 in Japan’s favor and the game seemed to be winding down.
Then out of nowhere, China made a quick comeback to tie it up to 3-3 and…well…we we’re obviously cheering for China again. High-fiving people behind us this time and joining Christina’s Chinese chants.
The game ended in a tie and sufficiently got us pumped up for next week’s main event: men’s South Korea vs. Japan. I am so incredibly excited and cannot wait for Sunday. We’ll be going early to see Australia vs. China beforehand and our seats are in the 7th row, midfield (right by where we were for the other games).
In other news…
Things I’m bad at here Budgeting, studying, taking care of business for The Hoya and The Phantoms, communicating with people back home, and being punctual (which is absurd since I’m usually so obsessed with being punctual).
Things I’m good at here Eating.