Posted August. 05, 2010 11:32,
Korean soccer fans as well as the domestic K-League are angry at Spanish powerhouse FC Barcelona.
To mark the 60th anniversary of bilateral ties between Korea and Spain, the Korea Professional Football Association invited Barca to Seoul for a friendly match against a K-League All-Star team Wednesday.
Barca won, 5-2, as superstar Lionel Messi scored two goals in just 16 minutes. The bigger headline, however, was the teams blatant disregard for its Korean fans.
The agreement required Barca to bring to Korea not only Spanish internationals such as Xavier Hernández and Andrés Iniesta but also Messi. Shortly after the announcement of the visit, Spanish media said members of the Spanish national team would snub going to Korea to take a rest.
As a result, Barca brought no internationals from the World Cup champion nation.
The rudeness of the Spaniards did not end there. A day before the game, Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola said Messi would not play. Without the Argentine wunderkind, the game was deemed meaningless given the absence of stars.
The K-League and the games sponsor Sport and Story spoke to Barca directors Tuesday evening. When Sport and Story President Chung Tae-sung complained over Guardiolas comment, the directors replied that a coach decides who plays.
Chung, however, showed the directors Korean news articles blasting their squad, which prompted them to talk to Guardiola as if sensing the severity of the situation. The team eventually agreed to have Messi and its other stars take the field.
The sponsor paid Barca 3.5 billion won (three million U.S. dollars) for the friendly. A binding provision in the agreement said Spanish national team members as well as stars such as Messi had to play, but proved useless.
Chung said, FC Barcelona wanted to do what it wanted to do, though it had to pay a penalty for breach of contract. We are also at a loss since it continuously changed its attitude and words.
Though Messi did play in the game, Korean fans blasted the Spanish team for its rudeness. More than 43,000 upper-price tickets going for as high as 110,000 won (94 dollars) were sold, but after hearing Messi would not play, many of the buyers demanded a refund.
The ensuing backlash against Barcelona included diatribes such as, Are Korean soccer fans suckers? and Rude Barcelona! Fans also blamed the sponsor for putting up a weak response.
Barcelona visited Seoul as part of its preseason marketing campaign and fan appreciation tour and has earned millions of dollars through exhibition game fees and promotional events. Yet it perhaps scored an own goal by neglecting its Korean fans.