Bloggus Caesari must be the most unusual blog out there. It’s done incredibly well, however. I hope the author keeps it up.
Korea beats Italy, 2-1, on a golden goal. As the BBC’s Gary Lineker said just now, when asked whether Korea can win the World Cup, “They’ve just won the World Cup.” The scenes in Seoul are remarkable, and I remember Corso Buenos Aires in Milan in 1982 when Italy did win the Cup.
Sadly, Japan are now out of the World Cup, beaten 1-0 by Turkey. It’s easy to get carried away in the emotion of sport, but I think there’s something to the view that national team character does reflect national character. In the case of Japan and South Korea, that may well mean that things are changing.
As several commentators have noted, the current Japan team isn’t very, well, Japanese. There’s little respect for elders, it’s led by a foreigner, and it is dominated by strong, idiosyncratic personalities. French coach Philippe Troussier banished the system where the older players ruled the roost (and Japan never won any games against serious opposition). I’m happy to believe this is emblematic of a new Japan, but I’m sure these admirable characteristics will take a long time to percolate into the general, national character.
I’m also unconcerned about the vibrant nationalism that seems to accompany the Japanese team. In the aftermath of the Second World War, nationalist displays were rightly anathema in Japan. But the football fans are a new generation, completely immersed in a modern, democratic society. There’s nothing wrong with their passion for their country.
The other host nation, South Korea, plays Italy for a quarterfinal place in about three hours. Today’s Financial Times reports that in Korea as well, the team is signalling cultural change. It, too, is led by a foreigner, Dutch coach Gus Hiddink. Samsung, among others, has launched a “learn from Hiddink” campaign. Hiddink, like Troussier, “disregarded player popularity or personal relations in favour of merit”, and “introduced more flair” into Korea’s organised, but uncreative play.
For his efforts, there is a campaign to grant Hiddink honorary citizenship. There are even some who are clamouring for him to be made a full citizen, so he can run for Korea’s presidency in December. I don’t think so.