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Archive for June 26th, 2006

Then vs. Now

Posted by Brian on June 26, 2006

UPDATE: TO be fair, I just discovered this far more level-headed editorial from the Korea Times that places the blame squarely on the shoulders of the players and coaching staff. 

The Korea Times writes on the World Cup referreeing controversy in their loss to Switzerland:

It was galling to the Korean team and its coach, Dick Advocaat, to see the Argentine referee ignore a linesman's offside flag in the buildup to a goal scored by a Swiss player on Saturday. It was the most painful of the decisions that they felt were biased during the World Cup match.

But here's what the Korea Times was saying four years ago after their victory over Italy, a game that also had it's share of controversial calls… but this time in favor of Korea:

They said it was a miracle. But it was not a miracle. South Korea deserved the 2-1 sweet come-from-behind victory over three-time champions Italy in the second round of the World Cup. They did their best against the heavily favored Italians.

It is not improper to celebrate the Korean triumph that stunned the world and to comfort the defeated. Where there is winner, there must be loser.

While Koreans were celebrating through the night, Italians were suffering profound grief.

However, it is really regrettable that Italians appear to be sore losers, claiming they were robbed of the victory due to unfair refereeing.

In particular, veteran coach Giovanni Trapattoni, who must be a man of great knowledge about the sport, claimed that bad decision-making had robbed his team throughout the tournament.

According to AP reports, the seething Italian coach said, “We go out with our heads held high, but with a lot of recriminations. If we think about who should have won, I’d say it should have been Italy…(but) soccer is like that.’’

If Trapattoni feels that way, he should have volunteered to referee the game himself. It is utterly cowardly for such a seasoned leader to shift the blame for his team’s defeat. He might have praised the referee if his team won.

It is a grave misunderstanding to expect to be winners at all times. There is no permanent winner. All 32 countries that qualified for soccer’s greatest event could win or be defeated in any match.

The Italians complained of an early penalty kick, a red card and a disallowed goal, among others, claming they were unfairly knocked out of the World Cup because of lousy refereeing.

This suggests that Koreans enthusiastically celebrated an “unfair’’ victory thanks to the “dishonest’’ referee, which is an insult to all Koreans as well as the FIFA referees.

TV broadcasts repeatedly showed what happened in the goal area after Ecuadorean referee Byron Moreno awarded a penalty kick to the home team just five minutes after the kickoff.

As Song Chong-guk’s free-kick floated in, Seol Ki-hyeon was wrestled to the ground by Christian Panucci, and Kim Nam-il was pulled down by another Italian defender meters away from the referee. It was absolutely fair, right and brave decision by the referee.

In the middle of first half, the referee booked Francesco Totti for a forearm chop that caught Kim Nam-il in the face as both went for a high ball. In extra time, Totti fell in the penalty area, to the surprise of world soccer fans as well as Koreans in red, and the referee reached for a yellow card because the AS Roma star had taken a dive, or playacted, which FIFA vowed to get tough with. The referee had no reason to remember when making that decision that Totti had been carded earlier. And it is no wonder that he had to be sent off.

Italians should know how much their players’ rough and cunning fouls throughout the game made the home fans angry. For instance, Italy’s top player, Christian Vieri, avoided a yellow card for elbowing Kim Tae-young, forcing the Korean defender to be stretchered off briefly.

In the eyes of Koreans, the Italians were not only skillful with their feet, but also with their hands.

Trapattoni said after the match that “inability and low attention in the end caused a disaster.’’ He should have admitted that he had caused the disaster by coaching his players in such a way. He should have listened to Korean coach Guus Hiddink, who said there were mistakes, but not grave ones.

The virtue of sports is for the winners to comfort the losers and for the losers to congratulate the winners.

Needless to say, Italy is an undisputed soccer powerhouse that has taken home the coveted World Cup trophy three times.

The brilliant performances of the co-hosts of the 2002 FIFA Korea/Japan World Cup testify to the overall improvement in global soccer standards. This is really a good thing for the development of the sport. If Italy want to remain an international soccer leader, they should first learn how to congratulate the winners.

It is not befitting for Italians, who love arts and sports like Koreans, to blame others for their defeat in a sporting event.

They should realize the blood, sweat and tears shed by the Korean players in the process of preparing for the tournament over the past two years. Our team is worthy of such a historic achievement. Do not ruin the festive mood.

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