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Team Korea Gets Warm German Welcome

Posted June. 08, 2006 03:01,   


With heavy hearts, Team Korea walked into an 18th century castle that is now a hotel to find the lobby filled with some 2,000 welcoming Germans. The dispirited team was greeted with thundering applause and cheers. There were children – some of them waving Korean flags that they drew themselves – and some in German traditional outfit carrying a giant Korea flag. There were oversized photos of Ahn Jung-hwan and Lee Young-pyo. German greeters and Korean immigrants, arm-in-arm, produced a noisy and festive scene.

Bergisch Gladbach is a small city outside Cologne. Mayor Klaus Orth joked that the hotel was an old castle, but there have been no ghost sightings. “We welcome you to our city. I hope Korea and Germany meet in the final.”

The unexpected welcoming party gathered at the small city of 100,000 was the result of the ambitious promotion by the city. The soccer-loving locals welcomed the visiting foreign team like homecoming heroes. The team’s 2002 World Cup sensation might have bolstered their interest further.

“Korea and Germany met in the quarterfinals in 2002. I remember Michael Ballack scoring a goal,” said Wolfgang Kasaf (47). “Korea has to fight overseas this time, but the team does not look too bad at all. Asked what he thinks of the German team, he said, “It does not look too good. But I hope it will make the final eight.” Many Germans returned home with autographs from Korean players. Dick Advocaat assured the gathered crowd that his team will do as well as they did in 2002.

Won-Hong Lee bluesky@donga.com