by Paul Bacon
Rotherham, United Kingdom
December 18, 2005
Even before I got anywhere near an actual game, I began to get a glimpse of what an impact the World Cup had on Korea. During the competition, Korea had surprised everyone and under the leadership of Dutch coach Gus Hiddink reached the semi-final stages. Hiddink and his players, who had earned themselves the nickname "The Red Devils" (which was despite the fact that their uniforms are actually far closer to pink than red), became national heroes. At the school where I taught English, children in almost every one of my classes wore white T-shirts with a picture Hiddink printed on the front and red ones with the slogan "Be the Reds" inscribed on them.
The first game I actually got to go see was held at the World Cup stadium in Seoul. During the World Cup, the opening ceremony and one of the semifinals were staged there. That semifinal had seen Korea eventually beaten by Germany. Unfortunately, the day friends and I passed through the turnstiles the opposition was only Kuwait, a somewhat less-enticing prospect.
Despite the lowly status of the opposition and the fact that temperatures at pitch-side were around 9 degrees below 0, the Korean supporters had turned out in force, with 55, 000 of them braving the cold weather to cheer their team on. The atmosphere they produced was indeed intense but nothing like I had ever experienced back in Europe. Whilst everyone made plenty of noise and carried massive banners and flags, there was none of the aggression and hostility you often see in English stadiums. Rather than trying to intimidate the visiting players or curse the referee, the Korean fans were content to simply sing for their team or cheer wildly whenever anyone hit a powerful shot. whether it was anywhere close to being a goal or not.
Truth be told, the actual match failed to compare to the quality of the fans watching it. Despite having several players who plied their trades in the top European leagues, Korea laboured past a very ordinary Kuwait side. Nevertheless, The Red Devils, and the friendliness and enthusiasm of their supporters, had me hooked. From then on I made every effort to watch The Red Devils whenever I could, be it at the World Cup Stadium or just on TV at my local bar.
From journal Heart and Seoul in Korea