In the aftermath of the riots here in the UK, and in view of all the drug, knife and gun crime that has swept the nation in recent years (which incidentally the media seem to delight in sensationalising) I thought it would be appropriate to write about something positive; because lets face it, the true nature of the human race is that of love and harmony; not violence. I was therefore prompted to recall an incident that occurred back in the Summer of 2002 during the latter stages of the football World Cup, which was hosted by South Korea and Japan.
Anyone who is familiar with this tournament will be aware of the rather pointless match, that takes place prior to the final between the two losing semi-finalists, to see who finishes in third and fourth place respectively. I say pointless for a couple of reasons. Firstly, anyone who plays a competitive sport generally does so in order to win. So for a professional football team to lose a final would be considered by most to be a failure; after all, no one remembers the losers? With this in mind then, what professional footballer would want to finish third or fourth? Because of this, over the years, countries have been inclined to use the third and fourth place play-off as a platform to give younger and squad players a kick-about. Also because of the rules it is actually possible for a team to be considered the third best in the world without actually winning a match in normal playing time during the whole tournament. For example, a team could qualify for the knock-out stages by drawing all three matches during the group stage and then draw their games in the knock-out stages but go through to the semi-finals by winning penalty shoot-outs. They could then lose in the semi-final, draw the third and fourth place play-off, but win the match via a penalty shoot-out and thus be considered to be the third best International team in the world. As I said….pointless!
But back in 2002 I remember visiting my mother one Saturday afternoon whilst the World Cup play-off for third and fourth place was being shown live on TV. South Korea were playing Turkey and the final score was 3-2 but I can’t remember who actually won (the word ”pointless” springs to mind)! The crowd was made up largely of South Koreans who were absolutely delighted that their small country had made such an impact on the tournament, but there were also lots of other nationalities too. At the final whistle something quite incredible happened that I’d never seen at the end of a football match before; I haven’t seen a repeat since either. Both sets of players intermingled and joined hands in a long line and ran towards one section of the crowd. That simple gesture of togetherness seemed to have a real impact on everyone in the stadium. There was a surge of cheering and happiness, and in that moment as I watched from across the miles, my heart was touched and I had a tear in my eye as I felt the tangible feelings of harmony that existed between players and spectators alike throughout the stadium. It was a truly amazing moment that will remain with me forever.
It may have been a pointless game that no team could truly win, but it spawned a great victory for the human race.