Friday, July 9, 2010

World Cup Fever Strikes!

대한민국! (dae-han-min-gook!)
chants the swelling masses of Korean soccer hooligans. It's a warm late spring evening in Duryu Park in Daegu. By nightfall, the World Cup will kick off for the Taeguk Warriors in a match against Greece. Red devil horns flicker far off into the dusk. The Korean faithful trade their kimchi for fried chicken and soju for beer (ehhh not entirely, soju forever!). The excitement builds.
It was a great game and Korea dominated, comfortably winning 2-0. We enjoyed cheering and like the spirited crowds at baseball games, Koreans do well to keep up the enthusiasm.
HomePlus, the big Wal-mart type store here was selling face cut-outs of various Korean stars. No one could tell we were wae-gook-eens! From left to right: Diana, Joanne, James, and I.
Diana found and photographed this gem down in Busan. A fig thing in South Africa! Sounds delicious! A Fig Newton? A fig pie? Oh wait, what the sign was trying to spell was "Fighting!" Like you often see, it was a fail, and that's why we're here.

Koreans shout "FIGHTING!" to cheer on the team, the same way we would use "let's go!" or "here we go!" One of my Korean teachers asked me if we had any word like "fighting" in English. I just looked at her puzzled for a long time until it occurred to her that fighting is an English word.

The Korea match was really only a warm-up for the battle royale, touted by some as the match of the decade: USA vs. England. Many of my friends are English, including the most vocal dude I know, Sir Handsome James Barr. The insults and vulgarities were at a high.

Anticipating the 3:30AM start time, we all pack into a dimly lit basement bar downtown called Communes. Band playbills, albums, and posters from the 60's and 70's adorn the dingy brick walls and you can cut the cigarette smoke with a knife. Everyone is decked out in the garb of their respective nation, and the back-and-forth chants began long before kickoff. All the makings of a trans-Atlantic rumble.
The dramatic dropping of the pants!

I was good for starting some righteous historical chants: "JUST LIKE YORKTOWN!" Of course the clinching battle of the Revolution is relevant! Handsome James, also a student of history, came back with references to the war of 1812 when British troops invaded Washington and burned the White House. Damn you James.

The tension mounted as Communes grew more and more crowded. A line could have been drawn down the middle of the space marking the division of Americans and English. I stealthily stood on the English side.
Harry (English) and I. Let's here it for sportsmanship!

Within 5 minutes, England scored, and things looked pretty bad. After all the hype, a smack-down would really sting. Some solid defense and magic goalkeeping from Tim Howard kept the US in the game.

In the second half, Clint Dempsey fired a shot at English goalkeeper Nick Green that he appeared to have in his grasp as he came to the ground, only to have the ball roll out of his hands and dribble into the net. He dramatically crawled in an effort to stop the ball short to no avail.


The USA!USA!USA! chant was deafening and the English cried lucky goal. Tough luck on you, chaps.