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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK

Koreans bid fond farewell

By Stuart Roach
BBC Sport Online's man in Korea

Korea's World Cup may have been over, but fans of the co-host nation were still clamouring for one final football fix.

With South Korea having lost to Turkey in Saturday's third-place play-off - the last of 32 games on the peninsula - there was a fear that the final would pass most by.

But bars and restaurants were still busy with fans for Brazil's 2-0 win over Turkey.

" Young Koreans have never had excuses to have parties like these "
Korean fan Wood

The wild street scenes that had decorated Korea's matches throughout the tournament were never likely to be in evidence.

But the streets were still crowded.

In Seoul, the World Cup plaza which featured open-air bars and a big screen showing the game was a lively place to be once more.

The atmosphere was superb as football fans in the capital gathered for one last time at this World Cup.

Football, it appears, is here to stay.

"This is the start for football in this country now," said Wood, a waiter in the Yujung restaurant.

"Four years ago, the young people were interested in the start of the World Cup, but once Korea were knocked out they stopped caring.

"Now, they just love football. And that is why everyone wanted to see the final.

"The older people would watch the games anyway, whether Korea were there or not. But this has been a new experience for the young people.

"They have never had excuses to have parties like these. But the Korean games have made everyone feel together."

Hopefully, that feeling of togetherness will stay.

With the novelty of the World Cup now gone, there is a danger that fans created by the World Cup experience will now get their kicks elsewhere.

But the timing of the K-League is perfect, with the new season kicking off next week.

Baseball has been the number one sport here for many years, but football appears to have taken over on the back of the World Cup.

"People just want football now. The K-League crowds will be up because of the World Cup and fans cannot get enough of the game," added Woo.

The final provided an interesting divide in loyalties.

Many Koreans were cheering for Brazil.

Not just because of their perfect grasp of the beautiful game, but because Germany had beaten Korea.

But nearly half the fans stayed 'loyal' to a German side they had latched on to throughout the tournament.

Equally noticeable was the speed with which the streets of Seoul emptied at the final whistle.

Just an hour into post-World Cup time, all the fans who had come out for the final were gone.

Korea's World Cup had finished and the clear-up had begun.

But that is not a taste of things to come.

"We cannot wait for the next World Cup in Germany," said Woo.

"People are hungry for more football and the pride our team has won means we will still be there in four years' time."

Monday was declared a public holiday in South Korea following the co-hosts achievements at this tournament.

It was supposed to be a time to reflect, but it will also see Korean fans looking forward.


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