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Number 18: Symbol of Friendship between Hong and Hwang

Posted February. 19, 2003 22:42,   


Hwang Sung-hong has left. But, his best friend Hong Myung-bo is still running on the ground with him.

Hong Myung-bo, who has advanced into the US MLS and now plays for LA Galaxy, made his official debut in a game between LA Galaxy and Lyn Oslo F.C. of Norway`s First Division on Tuesday in the club`s first match of the La Manga Cup 2003 in Cartagena, Spain. He wore a uniform with number 18 on it, the number that his best friend Hwang Sun-hong was wearing.

Originally, Hong wanted to use number 20, which he used to wear on the Korean national soccer team. But the number has been assigned to other Galaxy player. Among the choices left, Hong chose 18. It was the number that his best friend Hwang Sun-hong used to wear. Hong said, "Listening to Sun`s retirement, I decided to wear 18. That way, I thought, I could maintain his legacy on the ground."

Hong and Hwang have been together for the past 13 years on the national team. Although Hong is one year older, they have remained close buddies to each other since 1990. Beginning their careers on the national team, Hong chose number 20 and Hwang 18.

Ever since then, the two numbers got to represent the Korean soccer. Throughout more than 70 A-matches up to the 2002 World Cup, number 20 represented South Korea`s defense, while 18 attack.

Hwang says, "Myung seldom speaks. Sometimes, I mistakenly thought he was angry. It`s because of his silence. But, once getting on good terms, he really cares." On the other hand, Hong recalls, "My heart was torn apart during the 1998 France World Cup, watching Sun sitting on the bench due to the injury. I understand how it was harder for him."

Hong knows the injuries have forced Hwang to retire. He also knows how Hwang loves soccer. That is why Hong has chosen his friend`s number. Now, Hwang can spiritually run for 2 years in the United States through his number.

In the game against Lyn Oslo F.C., Hong left a good impression with his shooting passes. Galaxy won a 5-0 shutout victory. This was the fourth game since Hong`s joining the team. In the past three games prior to his debut match, he was always put in the starting line-up. In addition, in yesterday`s game, he made a successful official debut.

Jong-Koo Yang yjongk@donga.com