S Korean fans relieved at draw

An early morning kick-off didn't deter South Korean soccer fans from revelling Monday in their narrow escape.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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An early morning kick-off didn't deter South Korean soccer fans from revelling Monday in their narrow escape, after tying 1-1 with France to keep their World Cup dreams alive. Although the match started at 4 am local time (1900 GMT), the streets of Seoul and cities across the country were still packed with "Red Devils,'' as South Korea's fans are known. There were 280,000 people outdoors in Seoul alone, police said. It was South Korea's star player Park Ji-sung who leveled the game, in the 81st minute, helping keep hopes alive that the country might repeat its surprising performance in the 2002 World Cup when South Korea reached the semifinals. "Although our team lacked much strategy in the first half of the game, I'm satisfied to see that with our relentless spirit our team at least tied with one of the best traditional soccer heavyweights,'' said Oh Jung-hwan, 50, who stayed up the whole night at Jamsil Olympics Stadium in Seoul. Given the early starting time, some companies gave their workers Monday off while others reportedly called their staff in early so they could watch the game together. "Because I understand my employees' enthusiasm for soccer, I gave them the half-day off so that they could cheer on our team freely,'' said Oh, who runs his own interior design company. Others weren't so lucky. One group of high school students in uniforms were cheering early Monday with bloodshot eyes - matching the team's red strip - before heading to class. "I didn't mind staying up the whole night although I have to go to school early in the morning,'' said student Im Min-Ju, 18. Others didn't intend to disrupt their biological clock, but nonetheless were drawn into the euphoria by the boisterous crowds. "I couldn't sleep in my apartment because of all that noise and cheering in my neighborhood. So I decided to go out to a stadium where a lot of people were gathering,'' said Kim Kyung-ho, 34, an office worker. Kim had another reason to watch: he had bet on the result of the game with his colleagues. (AP)