World Cup Madness – Part 1
Last night was Korea’s first game of the 2010 World Cup against Greece. Being from the States, I’ve never been into soccer at all. But being from South Florida, I can jump on the bandwagon like it’s nobody’s business. So we got our Red Devil’s gear and headed for Duryu park where we expected a leisurely evening of watching “footie.” Little did we know that thousands upon thousands of Koreans had the same plan. After the Korea game, we stayed downtown for the USA vs. England game at 3:30am. I had so much fun I might actually become a soccer fan.
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The watch party at Duryu park was like no atmosphere I’ve ever experienced before. I was at game seven when the Florida Marlins won the World Series in ’97. I was at the American Airlines Arena when the Heat won the championship on an away game. Not to mention two championships each for University of Florida basketball and football. The energy in Daegu last night surpassed all of those, and this was just the first game of the World Cup.
Thousands of people set up their picnic blankets in front of the stage and the numerous big screens all over the park. Everyone was wearing little devil horns in support of the Korea team nicknamed the Red Devils for their lucky red jerseys. It looked like a sea of red blinking lights that was even more impressive once the sun went down. Performers put on a show the whole night leading up to a massive fireworks display right before the start of the game. They also blasted We Are the Champions along with the pyrotechnics, which I thought was hilarious since I’ve only heard the song played at a sporting event when…you know, you win a championship, not before. But I guess a little positive thinking never hurt anyone. Korea scored two goals during the game and the crowd absolutely exploded after each one. The energy level stayed up for the entire night as people were on their feet for every shot on goal from either team.
We snuck out of the park with a few minutes left in the game to beat the huge crowd of people to the cabs and subway. For the next few hours we just wandered around downtown and killed time until the USA vs. England game at 3:30am. The celebrations in the streets were in full-force as people chanted the Korean fight song and honked their horns. As usual, we became the target of group pictures and the occasional crazy person. At one point, we were sitting around in a small park when a guy cornered us and began talking about professional wrestling. I kind of just played along as he rambled on about all the new wrestlers I know nothing about, but we bonded once he got to the late 80’s early 90’s guys. We even sung the Shawn Michaels entrance music together.
With a couple of hours left until game time, we gathered around outside the classiest establishment of downtown Daegu, the 7-11, to drink cheap beer and paint our faces. Most of our friends were there and the line was clearly drawn between the Americans, the Brits and the Canadians (who were supporting England because the Queen Mum is on their money, or some lame reason). The Americans figured we were in a win-win situation because if we lost, we didn’t really care that much to begin with, but if we won we would have eternal bragging rights over our fellow foreigners. Finally, with the hooliganism reaching a fever pitch, we went into Billibowl to watch the game.
The rest of the night was just a blur of flag waving, screaming, chanting, high-fiving and dancing. The final result was a draw at 1-1 thanks to a screw-up by England’s goal keeper and some great plays by our own keeper. The Americans chalked it up as a win, and the Brits were severely disappointed, which was all I wanted out of the night. We shuffled out of Billibowl draped in American glory and shielding our eyes from the sunrise for the end of what was an unforgettable night. And, that was only the first night of the World Cup.
Check out the Flickr page for more. Note; most of our pictures came out blurry, so we’ll post better ones when we borrow them from other people