The opening of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which has been delayed by one year due to the spread of the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19), is one day away. Even in difficult circumstances, players compete for their own honor. What draws attention as much as the color of the medals is the ‘derby match’ between the national teams with a tangled historical background. In addition to the eternal rival ‘Korea-Japan War’, there is also interest in the confrontation between European countries aimed at guns during World Wars I and II.
Only Seungri proves everything, the Korea-Japan match that doesn’t work
“Even if you win all the teams, if you lose to Japan, you lose, and if you win against Japan even if you lose to other countries, you win.”
This is a passage from the senior baseball coach Kim Eung-yong, who led the national baseball team in the past. Aside from the event, the Korea-Japan match is represented as a winner take all, in which only the winner remains in the record regardless of their original ability. The national team that loses the Korea-Japan match will be criticized by the public, including their own media. The player who provided an excuse for defeat even used the yoke of ‘rebel’.
Even if the final score is good, if there is a defeat in the Korea-Japan match, ‘we lost well (we fought well)’ doesn’t work. Among the official sports of the upcoming Olympic Games, soccer is a game with a strong empathy for both peoples. The first soccer match between Korea and Japan was the Asian qualifier for the 1954 FIFA World Cup Switzerland, which was held in 1953 after liberation. At that time, President Syngman Rhee even told the national soccer team, “If you lose to Japan, you will die in the Korea Strait,” giving us a glimpse of the resolution ahead of the Korea-Japan match.
In the historical record, Korea is ahead of Japan. The gap has been narrowing since the J-League (Japanese professional soccer) was launched in the 1990s. The Tokyo Olympic soccer team could meet Japan in the quarterfinals as early as possible depending on the group stage results. As we aim for a bronze medal or higher, we can win or lose everything in a single match.
The baseball team is highly likely to face Japan several times after passing the group stage due to complicated tournament management rules.
The first official Korea-Japan match at the Olympics is a women’s handball match. On the 29th, Korea will play the third group match against Japan.
Judo must go beyond Japan, the host country, to enter the medal right. The women’s volleyball team, played by world-famous star Kim Yeon-kyung, will meet Japan in the fourth round of the group stage on the 31st. In women’s golf, where Jin-Young Ko and In-B Park take part, it seems that they will be able to defend the defending champion only after they overcome Japan’s signboard Hataoka Nasa.
A sports critic in Korea said, “The atmosphere between Korea and Japan is expected to be hotter than ever because of the banner controversy at this Olympic Games.” He predicted, “The fighting spirit of our athletes is expected to increase as Japan’s advantage as a host country is not great due to the aftermath of no spectators.”
◆“We are too”… A match as fierce as the match between Korea and Japan
There is a ‘sports rivalry’ mainly in countries with a painful colonial history.
Every time India plays cricket against England, it is a battle of life and death. In India, a movie was made based on the victory over England.
Indonesia still fights to death when playing soccer with the Netherlands. Due to the difference in the level of ‘overwhelming’ in the FIFA rankings, it is extremely rare to encounter them in international competitions.
In Europe, the public interest in matches against opponents is very high, leaving Germany, France, England, and Italy, where the scars of the First and Second World Wars remain. It is safe to say that the four countries are rivals.
England, Ireland and Scotland, due to their complex historical background, make determined appearances ahead of the football game. Ireland, Scotland, and Wales formed their own national teams to participate in the World Cup and European Football Championships, shouting ‘Overthrow England’. However, for the Olympics, they wear the UK uniform together.
In the Asian continent, like Iraq and Kuwait, which fought in the Gulf War, Indonesia and Malaysia, which aimed their guns at each other, are representative sports rivals.
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