The stands were silent without the cheers of Korean fans shouting “Korea” and waving the Korean flags for 90 minutes. On the ground, however, the roaring shouts of the young Taegeuk Warriors, who were taking a mock test ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.
The South Korea national under-23 football team, led by manager Kim Hak-bum, played a friendly against Egypt at Al Salam Stadium in Cairo, Egypt on Friday. The match was originally scheduled to take place at Cairo International Stadium but the venue was changed six hours before kickoff due to maintenance issues.
The match was a matter of pride between the two countries, both of which had earned spots at the Tokyo Olympics, but was held without spectators amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the noise from the crowds, the voices of the managers and players could be heard louder than usual from the field, which was 70 meters away from the reporters’ seat.
The staff and players seemed frustrated as they struggled from the Egypt side’s pressing defense even with six Europe-based players, including Lee Seung-woo of Sint-Truidense VV. The forwards, who had a short amount of time to train together, failed to score and the defenders found it hard to prevent counterattacks. “What are you doing?,” yelled manager Kim at the defenders in the 25th minute when they were in confusion not knowing what to do. The best South Korean player of the day was the goalkeeper Song Bum-keun. His voice cracked from shouting at his teammates, “Look at the players” and “Come back (to the defense zone),” throughout the game and made several saves.
Following their 0-0 draw against Egypt, South Korea will face Brazil on Friday at the same stadium. “Our defenders had not enough time to train together and Europe-based players had problems with their physical strength as they’re not playing much for their clubs. They’re also having a jet lag and other difficulties but I hope they find ways to overcome them,” said manager Kim.
Korean immigrants in Egypt showed their support for the national team on the day, watching the game on television and talking to one another online. A lot of them were disappointed after the lackluster performance by the Korean team ended in a scoreless draw.
Hyun-Seok Lim firstname.lastname@example.org