In modern day sport often we see Politicians use sport to win favour with the people or to make an international statement. If that is not the case then frequently on a lesser level we see sports administrators forget the essence of sport and politicise it for their own gains. Sometimes it is great to see Politics left at the door and the honest emotions that sport can produce be on show for all to see. That was the case yesterday in Seoul, in the Korea Republic on the final day of the Women’s East Asia Cup.
The East Asia Cup is a league competition where four international sides play each other during a week, and whoever finishes top of the league ladder is crowned the Champion.
Going into the final day of this the fourth Women’s competition Japan sat top of the league ladder on four points, the same as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), but ahead on goal difference, by one goal. China were third with three points and South Korea or the Korea Republic as they are officially known were last with no points having lost to both North Korea and China.
Japan, had won the last two East Asia Cups without losing a game and were looking to do the same in 2013.
Much was made of the opening game which saw North Korea meet South Korea, but as has been the trend North Korea won again leaving the South with just one solitary win in 13 meetings between the two.
North Korea only arrived into Seoul last Friday after visa issues, and had to come via Beijing. The tournament started on Saturday. They would be the first North Korean side to play sport in South Korea since 2009.
On the final day North Korea met China in the first game which meant Japan would know what was required when it took on South Korea in the final game at the same stadium. North Korea won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Ri Un Hyang.
That meant Japan had to win to retain the East Asia Cup. With South Korea having not won a game it looked to many like a foregone conclusion that the World Champions would prevail. However South Korea left their best performance to last. They negated Japan’s attacking options and took the lead in the 13th minute through a sublime free kick from Ji So Yun. in the second half she doubled their lead, which meant Japan would have to find three goals to prevent the North Koreans winning the competition. They managed to pull back one and peppered the South Korean box, but could not find a second.
South Korea’s improbable win meant that their Northern neighbours were the East Asia Cup Champions for 2013, and for many of the team it was too much to believe as they burst into tears and hugged their team mates. Then they made their way down onto the pitch for scenes that show that sport is and always will be far greater than politics. the two Korean teams embraced and linked arms and took the applause of the crowd together. They posed for photographs together, and shared the glory together.
It was fitting that South Korea’s victory should hand the overall Championship to their fellow Koreans. As their fans always say when they support their neighbouring country against other nations, “We speak the same language and after all we are all Korean.”
Yesterday that was beautifully clear for all to see.