For those not in the know, the World Cup started a few weeks ago. 32 teams from around the world were divided into 8 groups. After three games, the top two teams in each group (based on points awarded for wins, draws, and goals) move on to the second round (Round of 16). It’s here that the matches really get intense, since it’s a single elimination round. Both the US and South Korea advanced and had their Round of 16 games Saturday night/Sunday morning local time.
Football (Soccer) isn’t that widely followed in the US, and according to Jo, the CNN anchor covering the US match had to hand over the mic to a spectator in order to explain things. I find this quite odd, given the number of parents sending their children to Soccer Camps. Heck, even I played soccer for a number of years when I was a kid. Football in much of the world is the national sport… as it should be. It’s a demanding game and far more exciting than Baseball, American Football, and Basketball combined.
Since football is one of my favorite sports, I’ve really enjoyed World Cup fever here. Up until this point, I only had the opportunity to watch games at home or in a pub. Since this was the birth of the Round of 16, and Korea had a real chance of losing (and thus being eliminated from further games), I wanted to experience the game as it was meant to be: in public.
In Seoul, there were a number of public venues set up for fans to watch the game. This is in and above all the pubs and movie theaters that held special events. I chose the heart of Seoul to watch the game. Seoul Plaza is a massive venue and averages 90,000 people per match.
Yeouido’s Floating Island is the new “hot spot” to watch the games, and they average over 100,000 people.
Then there’s places like World Cup Stadium and the COEX. The point being, is that supporting your national team (Korea) is important.
I arrived around 3pm to Seoul Plaza and it was already half-filled. Television crews were testing out shots and the performers for the night’s concert were running through dress rehearsals. It was going to be a massive event. I tried, in vain, to get a group together to watch the match, but most were put off by the large crowds and the fact that it was to rain. But I was committed. I was going to have a great time no matter what.
While there, I met a couple of University students and we shared some ground cover. While there I ran into a few old friends like Natasha and Melissa. Two boys from Suwon also approached me and became great friends during the night.
At 9pm, we were treated to a 2-hour live music show. I wasn’t familiar with many of the groups, yet I had heard most of the songs on the radio while walking around Seoul. The place was packed and filled with incredible energy… then it started raining. Nothing Mother Nature could do would deter our fun.
When the game finally started, we sat down on the lawn and watched as Korea was defeated 2-1. It was a devastating loss, especially since Korea had so many chances to pull ahead, yet failed to convert. I wasn’t too pleased with the referee in the match either. But that’s Football.
Once the game was over, I saw something amazing. People actually stayed around to help clean up the plaza. That would not happen in the US. But here, thousands of people worked together to form large heaps of rubbish for easy removal by others.
Following the game, I went to a local Wa Bar and waited until the 3:30am US match started. I watch the game there until it was over. Talk about a nail-biter, but as expected Ghana won. I finally made it home on Sunday around 9am. What a great weekend! Check out the video below!
How was yours?