(From left to right: Riah, me and Siobhain at Thursday game.)
It is World Cup season! I realize that no one really cares back home, but South Korea cares passionately and in the weeks leading up to the opening ceremony, I couldn't avoid the bombardment of Red Devil paraphernalia or the overwhelming surge of patriotic pride. (I count at least five different Kpop groups who have recorded World Cup songs in the past few months.) Say what you like about Korea, there are few countries that are better at INTENSE NATIONALISTIC PRIDE! The Shouts of the Red, Be the Devils, KOREA FIGHTING, etc, etc!! Then I caught the opening match at the skewered food house across the street (they will wrap asparagus in bacon and serve it onna stick) and remember, right, I both truly enjoy watching soccer AND, thanks to years of watching my brother's soccer matches, it's the one sport where I actually understand what is going on. And thus I very quickly found myself DEEPLY INVESTED in the World Cup and the Red Devils of Korea.
I watched the first game at a bar up in Sinchon with some friends. It was truly miserable weather - it poured rain all day long - but tons of people still turned out to watch the glorious, glorious game. The bar had been reserved for a friend's birthday, so we were able to actually have seats for the game and room to dance about and bang clappers. Our bar was showing the game was on a fifteen second delay for some reason, which meant we heard the roar of the crowd upstairs when Korea scored their first goal and had a very confused fifteen seconds until our feed caught up. After that we opted to make as much noise as possible to drown out the sounds of any potentially spoiling celebrations from upstairs. Korea won 2-0 and it was wonderful and the rain let up long enough for people to dance in the streets afterwards.
I watched Thursday's game against Argentina at COEX mall. (One of my fourth graders ran up to me in class on Thursday, wearing a Korean soccer jersey and covered in temporary tattoos, and shouted, "BE THE DEVILS, TEACHER! FIGHTING KOREA!" If I hadn't already been excited, their enthusiasm would have been contagious.) The Korea National Football Team Supporters Club erected several huge screens outside COEX and despite the terrible yellow dust and smog and heat, thousands and thousands of people turned up to fill the streets outside of COEX and cheer. Being in that enthusiastic of a crowd for a game I actually cared about was loads of fun, at least until the match turned into a bloody rout in the last fifteen minutes. Halftime, though, was especially fun, since Korea scored a goal just seconds before the buzzer sounded and the entire break turned into one prolonged celebration of the goal.
A boy and his vuvuzela. In the background, people are waving clappers, inflatable plastic tubes handed out at any Korean sporting match and are banged together to make a WHOLE LOT OF NOISE.
(You guys, that game. It was a heartbreaker. Like, I knew Korea wasn't going to beat Argentina. No one really thought Korea was going to beat Argentina, not even my die-hard soccer fan co-teacher. But for the middle thirty-five or forty minutes the Korean team played SO WELL and I really thought it might end in a tie. They were holding their own against Argentina, especially for the first half of the second quarter, and then the Korean defense completely fell apart in the last twenty minutes and it ended in a bloody 4-1 rout and seriously, BREAK MY DAMN HEART, why don't you. I don't think I've ever seen a more depressed subway packed full of people. BUT, Greece beat Nigeria, and we trounced Greece, which means there's STILL HOPE for advancing. Unfortunately, the South Korea vs. Nigeria game is at 3:30 Wednesday morning, which means I can't watch the game and be ~functional~ the next day, but I'm still VERY EXCITED!)
(And don't even get me started on the US-Slovenia match. I didn't even watch it since the US games have so far had the bad fortune of starting very late at night in Korea, but seriously, WHAT WAS THAT! We were robbed and I'm very possible going to have to stay up to cheer during the US-Algeria game on Wednesday.)
(God, I LOVE soccer!)
Light-up devil horns are a popular accessory for any Red Devil fan! On the left: fans heading home after the Korea-Greece game. On the right: fans lining the streets outside of COEX before the Korea-Argentina game.
The clappers are especially useful when chanting. Throughout the game, someone would shout Daehanminguk, the official Korean name for the Republic of Korea, and the crowd for respond, "Daemanminguk! CLAPCLAP - CLAPCLAP - CLAP" This went on for approximately the ENTIRE GAME.
THE SHOUTS OF THE REDS! FIGHTING KOREA!
More photos and videos are here.