Cold and the odds were no match for Team Korea fans
In below freezing weather, 33,000 Korea football fans turned out Tuesday morning to watch their team on big TVs and cheer in Gwanghwamun Square, central Seoul, even as the odds suggested defeat was all but certain.
The Taeguk Warriors did end up losing 4-1 to Brazil, the favorite by far, in the 2022 Qatar World Cup match. With that, a dramatic and surprising run for Korea’s national football team ended.
It was a sea of red in the tightly packed square, broken by the occasional Korea flag and placards held high. SWAT teams and riot police were at the ready, and extra trains were scheduled to keep the crowds moving.
Members of the Red Devils fan club and other supporters showed up for the 4 a.m. game, and then headed for a bus or metro stop when the match ended at 6 a.m., some going straight to work.
“I have been watching the World Cup matches through video highlights but I felt that wasn’t enough, and this time I came to cheer out on the streets,” said a 24 year old in flashing red devil horns, who came from northern Seoul’s Eunpyeong District.
“I have a long way to go because my office is in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi,” the fan said, hurriedly running to the Gwanghwamun bus stop.
“I’m getting a bowl of soup with my friends who came to the street cheering with me,” said a 28-year-old worker who lives in Yeungdeungpo District, western Seoul. “I have to go to work by 9 a.m.”
Jang Joon-young and Cho Jae-hee, both 28 years old and from Gunpom Gyeonggi, visited the Gwanghwamun Square to root for Team Korea.
“I’m thinking about eating sundaeguk to warm my body up,” Cho said, referring to soup made with blood sausage, while Jang urged his friend to head to work, saying they didn’t have time.
A twenty-five-year-old fan, whose company adopts flexible work schedule, headed back home to take a quick shower and go to work at Samsung Station right away in southern Seoul.
“Although my company follows a flexible work program, I’m afraid to be late,” the fan said.
Some headed to accommodations reserved in advance.
“I booked a hotel near the metro station,” said Jang Ye-bin, 28, who lives in Paju, Gyeonggi. “I don’t think I’ll have time to take a nap, so I’m going to rest for a while and go to my office in Gangnam.”
Lee Soo-min, 27, who took a nap at a nearby motel, said, “I do feel tired because I have to go home, change clothes, and go to work,” while adding, “I usually postpone things to tomorrow, and I followed my feelings to come to cheer.”
Some even took a day off of work to be able to cheer all night, like Jang Joon-young, 35, from eastern Seoul’s Jungnang District.
“I really wanted to see the match as it was expected to be Korea’s last match, and I took a day off not to worry about going to work,” Jang said. “I’m going to go home and rest now,” he said with a smile.
It was minus 3 degrees Celsius (27 degrees Fahrenheit) out in Seoul on Monday night — with flurries of snow — but the Red Devils had no regrets watching the match live out in the cold.
“My sleep wore off from the passion for cheering,” noted 34-year-old Seok No-min, who works near Isu Station in southern Seoul.
“The players didn’t give up and did their best until the end,” Seok said. “That’s enough.”
A Tuesday’s street cheering event, no accidents were reported.
The police deployed a total of 465 officers at Gwanghwamun Square, including around 380 officers in six riot squads, and 20 SWAT officers, from Monday midnight.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government controlled the paths with the police and the Red Devil club’s own safety personnel. The city also added more trains on metro lines 2, 3 and 5 around 6 a.m., when the match ended.
By 7 a.m., the Red Devils were off the square, most back to their normal routine.
BY NA UN-CHAE, SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]