Vietnam is on fire. A friend who lives in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, said “The city is paralyzed.” Ever since the soccer team led by Park Hang-seo won victory in the Suzuki Cup for the first time in 10 years, cheering squads and motorcycles occupied the street.
Citizens in Vietnam arrived at home after midnight on Sunday because of the traffic. The streets were full of excitement and joy. Vietnamese press reported, “All citizens had a sleepless night.”
I was preoccupied while watching Vietnam’s matches. Soccer is only a ball game. How does it shake up the whole country?
Evolutionary biology says soccer is related to primal human nature. Humans running with two feet catch a quarry in a team. Soccer realizes the primal hunting in modern society. That is why anyone can easily understand soccer. And that is also why it is welcomed in every culture.
It is in the same context that society runs amok when there is a soccer match. Survival of a group hinged upon the result of hunting. That is why society holds a festival before hunting and everyone cheers for hunters and their achievements. People in modern society cheering as watching soccer games are also related to our survival instinct, which is deeply ingrained in our genes.
That is why Vietnamese people became more optimistic about their future by watching the soccer game. The Suzuki Cup was especially big for them because their match was Thailand. Vietnam considers Thailand as their rival. It is a similar relationship with Japan and Korea. Thailand is richer and trendier than Vietnam. Its soccer team is stronger. Thailand won the most Suzuki Cup than any other country, and was aiming for the third consecutive victory. But Vietnam won the cup and the country is now full of confidence.
Then why is Korea cheering for Vietnam’s soccer games? The final match of the Suzuki Cup had a viewing rate over 20 percent in Korea. It was overwhelmingly high. How many of Korean people knew about the Suzuki Cup before? And it is of course, because of Park Hang-seo. Then what about Park moved so many Koreans?
Many sports sociologists had similar opinions. Park Hang-seo is excluded from mainstream society. He had to go to Vietnam because no one offered him a job in Korea. He is not a man of fancy backgrounds. He represents ordinary Koreans. They equated themselves with Park.
And Park made a miracle. People got courage from Park’s achievement. They gave him a big hand. Park’s fair and warm leadership also affected it. It was people’s repulsion against unfair and cold society. Most of successful films have this storyline. But there is no scenario in sports. It is more realistic than movies.
I wholeheartedly applaud Park’s achievement. Also I see what our society lacks. We need the hope that Park gave Vietnamese people. That is why I felt bitter as watching Vietnam’s soccer games.