On June 17th, 2015, the Republic of Korea women’s national football team made history by earning their spot in the Round of 16 in FIFA Women’s World Cup. This was their second appearance (first one being in 2003) and although they fought valiantly against France today (June 21st), they unfortunately lost 3-0. It was a good shot and I would have loved to see them advance further but I am still very proud and happy that we even made it this far.
But let’s rewind the clock a few days before leading up to this momentous event in Landsdowne Stadium, Ottawa.
If I can be frank with you, I was never really invested into our Women’ team. And to address the elephant in the room, most Koreans are biased towards our Men’s team in terms of media scrutiny, sponsorships etc. Initially, I only went to watch our Women’s team play because they were just playing in my home town. As harsh as that sounds, it is true, and I am not going to deny that. But something happened that day and I have never felt more ashamed and at the same time proud of myself.
I realized FIFA Women’s World Cup can be just as exciting as their male counterpart’s. And how I cleared my bias was all because of the match between Korea Republic and Spain. You see, it’s not just the fact that we won that game that changed my perspective but it’s also the intensity, energy, and endurance that was shown on the field from both teams. I heard the grass vibrate and the ground tremble with fear as players sped back and forth on the field.
And of course, who can forget the audience, especially ours. On that hot summer day, as I sat with my fellow Koreans, wearing a red t-shirt, I cheered and screamed like never before. I don’t know what got into me. Maybe it was the loud banging of the drums and the constant chanting of, “대한민국! (Dae-Han-Min-Guk lit. Republic of Korea” But I couldn’t sit back down! I felt like I was physically with our players on the field, and if I didn’t do my part, it would let them down.
When that final whistle blew, I sprang up and down like a child on Christmas day filled with joy and passion. I hugged strangers around me and my entire body shook with adrenaline. Even to this day, when I reflect back, I still get the chills and a wide grin appears on my face. That is how much that decisive match changed me.
I guess what I want to say is, I apologize to our Women’s football team for my bias before but also thank you so much for giving me the chance to rid of it. I am glad to have seen you play and I am happy that I was there with you. If you can impress someone this much with your style of play, I can’t wait to see what you can do at the next World Cup. I’ll be waiting but cheering my heart out again for that next time.