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A bow for five expats

Posted November. 16, 2020 07:48,   

Updated November. 16, 2020 07:48


The U23 friendly game between the South Korea and Brazil Olympic teams was held at the Walsalam Stadium in Cairo, Egypt on Saturday. After losing 1-3 to Brazil, South Korean footballers looked exhausted. They were leading against one of the strongest teams that are forecast to win next year’s Tokyo Olympics before the score was turned around, and their disappointment was evident.

As they were walking into the locker room, they heard cheers in Korean from the audience – Five South Korean football fans who live in Egypt. The game was supposed to be held with no fans due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, but the Egyptian government decided to allow to five spectators in the stadium by request of the South Korean embassy in Egypt. The embassy selected five people on the first-come, first-served basis.

With only 40 spectators in the audience at a stadium that accommodates 30,000 people, most of them being staff of Egyptian or Brazilian soccer associations, the game was very quiet. All five of the South Korean expats wore masks to follow government guidelines although the majority of the audience did not wear them. They cheered and applauded the South Korean team throughout the match after receiving confirmation that it was allowed.

“I was excited to come and cheer for the South Korean team, especially because there has been not much going on these days,” said Lim Ji-eun who shared disappointment with players every time they missed opportunities to score a goal. “I never imagined I would be able to see the South Korean team play in Egypt,” said Han Ji-u. “I feel proud that they did their best regardless of the result.”

The South Korean players stooped and lined up after they heard the cheer and bowed on the count of three just for the five fans. The fans responded with an applause and praised their play. Footballer Baek Seung-ho gave his uniform to Kim Ye-jin who said she was a fan.

Egypt is home to approximately 800 South Korean expats, most of whom are students who are learning Arabic and employees of South Korean companies who have been dispatched to the country. The bow was a considerate gesture for fans when there are not many events that often bring a piece of home to them. Although the South Korean team lost, the small cheering squad did not seem to mind it. They will cherish the bow from the players for a long time.

Hyun-Seok Lim lhs@donga.com