Historical is a term often misused in this day and age. Yet I am about to use it in a context that I am going to try and justify. The year 2010 was a historical one for Korean sports, and I don’t use that term lightly. There have been many many highlights in the world of sports and the roll call of star names and achievements are worthy of any major sporting nation.
Of course the biggest name in Korean sports this year has been Kim Yu-na. Her gold medal winning performance at the Winter Olympics sky rocketed her to fame and fortune. Will infamy follow? Only time will tell. But there is no doubt that 2010 was the year of Yu-na (she even won the accolade of LKL Personality of the Year) and we just hope that she can keep up her run of glory as well as hoping those oh so friendly Korean netizens will go easy on her. Korea went on to finish 5th in the Winter Olympics, and then capped off the year by finishing 2nd in the Asian Games, so all round not a bad record for Korean multi event sports.
But let’s get down to the main reason we’re here… Football! The World Cup seems like an age away now, and Korean football reached an all new high on the global level in the men and women’s game. Korea reached the last 16 for the first time on foreign soil, beating a poor Greece side 2-0, being humbled by Argentina 4-1 and then securing the last 16 place with a thrilling 2-2 draw with Nigeria, arguably the game of the tournament.
In the Premier League Park Ji-sung has put in recent performances for Manchester United against Wolves and Arsenal which are elevating him to match winner status. Lee Chung-yong continues to grow in every game for Bolton Wanderers, as are Ki Sung-yueng and Cha Du-ri for Celtic. The latter two scored two injury time wonder goals against St Johnstone on Boxing Day which have shown that they are now strong enough to rise to the big occasion. In the rest of Europe Son Heung-min continues to grow and establish himself at Hamburg and Park Chu-young continues to have a frustrating injury ridden time at Monaco. Let’s hope that the boys can do the business at the Asian Cup later this month.
Perhaps the biggest achievement in the football world for Korea has been The Korean women’s Under-17 team winning the World Cup in Trinidad & Tobago. The reason this is the biggest achievement is because the women’s team have always traditionally been a weak side, and even pale in comparison to their neighbours North Korea, Japan and China, all of whom are considered dangerous teams. Favourites for the tournament were of course powerhouse Germany who dispatched of Mexico 9-0, South Africa 10-1 and even beat Korea 3-0. But after they were surprisingly knocked out by North Korea in the quarter finals the tournament was blasted wide open and thanks for an insane 6-5 victory over Nigeria and a momentous 2-1 victory over Spain, Korea found themselves in final where they faced arch rivals Japan (who knocked out North Korea in the semi final). The final itself was epic, ending in a 3-3 draw and South Korea winning 5-4 on penalties. Korean striker Yeo Min-ji finished with a mammoth 8 goals and Golden Ball and Golden Shoe awards. Let’s hope that the women’s sport can kick on from here.
The main focus of sport now turns towards the 2011 Asian Cup which is due to begin this month. Korea begin on the 10th where they face Bahrain. They also play Australia and India in the same group. This is a competition which Korea have not won for a very long time and Cha Du-ri was quick to say that Korea consider themselves the best team in Asia and yet can’t win this competition, so it’s time to walk the walk. The fact that all of Korea’s big name players (apart from Park Chu-young who is ruled out through injury) have reported for duty also show that they are taking the tournament very seriously. This is also supposedly Park Ji-sung’s last tournament in national colours as he plans to retire from international football after competition has finished. If this is true then one can only hope that captain marvel goes out with a bang and lifts the trophy. On a personal note it also marks four years since I first started writing for LKL, with my first article being about the 2007 tournament. It has been a good four years and let’s hope for a good tournament!
[Here’s to the next four – Ed]