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 World Cup 2002
 Journals from the UNITED crew
 Days 1-3

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dhedrick Posted - 04/01/2003 : 15:39:17
Today is our fourth day in Seoul, a sprawling city with very friendly and respectful people, great smog and a public transportation system that rivals any other city in the world.

The last three nights we spent at the Hotel Highland in a trendy coffee-shop part of the city. The floor was pretty comfortable.

Our first day we spent oreintating ourselves with the city, especially various markets. The food market was very colorful, with lots of fish, vegetables and spices. In the afternoon we sat down to watch the games, which have been very entertaining, except the Germany v Saudi Arabia match.

The Korean people are very helpful. Each time we reach into our pocket for a map, we promptly get a personal escort to wherever we are trying to go; they often times pay our fares when we get confused or lose our tickets. The younger people speak a lot of English and are in a struggle between thousands of years of history and integrating western cultures. Everybody, young and old, has a cell phone. The telecom shops are more prevelant than our hardy Starbucks, occupying both corners of the block, instead of only one.

The third night we witness Korean soccer history: their first World Cup win, a 2-0 victory over Poland. We watched the game in the cultural center of the city, where two of the busier streets intersect and people congregated to watch the game on huge televisions attached to the sides of buildings. The streets were packed with red clad people of all ages and genders, with every one of them knowing both the songs that are sung in support of the Red Devils.

Luckily, we found the Millenium Coffee Shop on the second floor of a building on the corner of the square. The man in charge was stingy with the remote controlled air conditioning; we waited all night to see if the overhead fan was operational, which we still do not know. At kick-off, fireworks notified the thousands of police to allow the fans into the streets, stopping traffic in two directions. The mob of 150,000 soon found seats on newspapers wherever there was space.

Polite and respective mayhem broke out at each goal and the final whistle. People were everywhere. The subways were packed, oxygen was scare and song rang out through the night. In the oddest World Cup happening any of us have every witnessed, the Korean people would occasionally break from their celebration to clean the streets of the daily newspapers that served as seats. Nobody was killed, although unarmed police did have to subdue one man in the subway who erroneously attempted a citizens arrest. The riot police, if you can call them that, held hands instead of batons, shields and guns. Luckily, the English are in Japan.

The next day is the US opener against Poland in Suwon, south of Seoul. The stadium is packed and everyody has a flag. While the Koreans are very respectful and curious of the United States, they come to support Portugal, hoping to get out of Group D. WIth numerous game reports on-line, I won't get into the match details, except to say this result might be the greates in our history, bigger than beating England many years ago and bigger than beating Columbia in L.A. eight years ago. However, if we do not go through, it will be dwarfed by what could have been.

Tomorrow we leave for Jeonju to see if we can witness Chilavert's predicted two goal effort against Spain. The following day will take us to Deagu for the South Africa v Slovenia followed two days later by the US v Korea game, a pivotal match for both countries, as the winner could very well win the group.

It is amazing to witness a country evolve so quickly around sport, much as France did four years ago and the United States less so four years before that. Korea is an incredible country with evident struggles to find a place in the global scene, both culturally and economically. With over 10 thousand years of history and about 17 years of rapid development, the feeling is that of a modern third world country. The Koreans seem to be doing well keeping heritage alive while at the same time accepting others cultures and influences. South Korea is no longer the the closed hermit community North Korea is.

Until next time, enjoy the World Cup.

Matt, Tom and Jaime
Matt Dacey
Ast. Director of Coaching and Player Development
Tualatin Hills United Soccer Club

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