Sports

Korean fans go wacko for the World Cup

Close to 1,000 fans pack parking lot to root on South Korean soccer team

The parking lot surrounding the Pal-do International Market was a sea of red Friday afternoon.

Close to 1,000 people packed onto the hot asphalt in front of the Korean super market, with a good portion of them dressed in the traditional red colors of the Korean national soccer team.

The throng of people came out to watch the Koreans take on Team Switzerland in the opening round of the 2006 World Cup.

The game didn’t end the way the red-clad fans wanted it to Friday afternoon — the Swiss hung on for a 1-0 victory. The loss eliminated the Korean team from the World Cup. But the result didn’t halt the enthusiasm and national pride the Korean fans exuded Friday afternoon.

The city of Federal Way has a rich history of being a destination point for Koreans. Federal Way’s population is approximately 83,000, of which more than 10,000 are of Korean decent. Also, city officials estimate 10 percent of the city’s businesses are owned by Koreans.

Federal Way also plays host to the now 2-year-old Han Woo-Ri Festival. The three-day event was June 9-11 and drew thousands of visitors to various sites around the city for a spotlight on Korean culture.

And the fans that showed up to watch the 10-foot wide big screen TV — which was delivered in a semi from Florida at a pricetag of $10,000 — came prepared Friday afternoon. Several hundred sported red T-shirts that read “Reds go together for our dreams” and signs were plastered all over the parking lot decreeing “Team Korea, Pride of Asia.” Fans also sported the familiar red, white and blue South Korean flag painted on their faces and weren’t afraid to bang together blown-up “Thunder sticks” in unison whenever the Korean soccer team did “something of note.” And the fans in front of the Pal-do International Market took extreme liberty Friday with the “Thunder stick” chatter. “Something of note” included things like a 10-foot pass, a South Korean throw-in or a turnover by the Swiss side.

I can’t even imagine what the reaction would have been like had the Koreans actually scored a goal.

It might have a been a good thing that they were shut out on Friday. All I know is the roar of the “Thunder sticks” pounding together and the Korean yells and chants were pretty deafening without any offensive push at all.

I don’t know what the standing-room only crowd in front of Pal-do would have done if South Korea would have found the back of the net. They didn’t look like the light-things-on-fire, turn-over-car types. But there was a good possibility I could have suffered severe ear drum damage, due to over-exposure of “Thunder stick” noise had a goal been converted.

I’ve been to plenty of Seahawk, Mariner and Sonic games during my lifetime in the Pacific Northwest. I was in the Kingdome during the 1980s “Bronco Buster” days. I was there during the Mariners’ 1995 playoff run when it felt and sounded like the roof on the now-extinct building was going to blow off.

So I thought I knew what fan hysteria felt like. But now I have a new sporting goal in my life — I want to experience a World Cup soccer match up close and personal.

After watching Friday’s crowd sing, dance and bang their “Thunder sticks” together for 90-straight minutes, I just can’t imagine what actually being inside a soccer stadium, watching a World Cup game would be like.

Even on TV, the passion of the fans comes right out of the screen, thanks to all the flag-waving and yelling.

It also came through pretty loud and clear Friday at the Pal-do International Market.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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