▲ Flanked by his teammates, United captain Kim Eun Jung thanks the dedicated Jeju fans in kind. Photo by Alpha Newberry
It’s true kids, there is no Santa. Well, your dreams will one day be crushed by someone bigger or stronger or richer than you are. This cruel reality was once again confirmed at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Were Jeju the better team over two legs? Probably. Was Seoul’s equalizing penalty on Sunday dubious? Dubious?!
It was criminal! Did Jeju deserve better? I certainly think so, but this isn’t Wonderland or Narnia; we lost, they won, and it feels like crap.
Jeju were the better side over these two legs against Seoul in my opinion. They played the more fluent and attractive football, took more chances and kept the ball on the floor. It was probably just some slight hesitancy after going 2-0 up in the 1st leg in Seogwipo that cost them. Put this down to inexperience. Jeju should have either gone for the jugular (and a probably unassailable 3-0 lead) or shut up shop.
They did neither. They conceded two goals and probably threw the tie away at that point. That they did astoundingly well again in the second leg just serves to underline what might have been had they held out for half an hour in Seogwipo.
In a week or so we’ll be able to talk about how well Jeju’s season went, about how they competed against the odds and got further than any of us expected them to. Right now however there is just a bitter choking disappointment, the feeling that a joyful glorious moment has been snatched away. As the Jeju players came over to applaud the fans at the end of the game I could see Jeju’s keeper Kim Ho Jun blinking back tears.
It was heartbreaking, I was 11 years old again and Gareth Southgate had just missed the decisive penalty against Germany in the Euro ’96 semi final. Then, as now, I thought, “... a minute ago you could have been a hero and now it’s all over and you can’t take it back.”
All of that hope and opportunity just vanishes. It’s a feeling of utter deflation.
Seconds later Park Kyung Hoon made a heart sign above his head towards the fans. I think this made me feel worse. I left the stadium quickly and got my flight home.
If this sounds over the top, it’s because it is. Sport (but let’s face it, mostly football) should make you feel heightened emotions — either joy or despair — for a short period of time, because if it didn’t what would be the point? Perhaps Jeju’s biggest and most important achievement this season was making more people care about how they performed. Jeju needs a fan base who genuinely care and as evidenced by the last two home games against Seoul they seem to be getting one.
In March when Jeju travel to Osaka and Melbourne (Tuesday the 15th — don’t forget to book your tickets!) and Tianjin in the Asian Champions League maybe this fan base can start thinking about fairy tales again.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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