One Last Word on the Asian Soccer Scorecard

BY DAN-CHYI CHUA
Jul 21, 2010
*Special to asia!

So what if Asians performed abysmally at this year's World Cup? There is still something we can be very proud of.

 

Lionel Messi of Argentina takes on the South Korea defence during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group B match between Argentina and South Korea at Soccer City Stadium on June 17, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Cameron Spencer)

Lionel Messi of Argentina takes on the South Korea defence during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group B match between Argentina and South Korea at Soccer City Stadium on June 17, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Photo credit: Cameron Spencer

 

The South Americans make football the beautiful game. The Europeans? Well, the Spanish La Liga, the English Premier League and the Italian Serie A have made household names out of the mini United Nations of players signed on by European clubs.

But what about us Asians? What have we brought to the table of international football?

We brought squeaky clean fun.

Well, to World Cup 2010 at least.

One of the things that will be remembered about the tournament is how the yellow cards went a-flashing during the final between Spain and the Netherlands – 14 in all.

Altogether 260 yellow cards were given out at this World Cup. Twenty-eight players were disciplined and sent off, either by collecting two yellow cards or a straight red. And guess what? None of them was Asian.

North Korea, the ultimate underdog of this World Cup, was arguably one of the most polite team to have played in the tournament. They might not have had a clean slate like eventual champions, Spain, who cruised through the first round at the group stage without a single card (red or yellow), but North Korea came a close second.

They were the only team in the tournament to have played two matches in the group stages without getting a single yellow card.

In their opening match against Brazil, they played a clean game and delighted with their tenacity against the football powerhouse. Even the Brazilian coach hailed the team's “near-perfect defence”.

 

Brazil vs North Korea

World Cup 2010 South Africa: Brazil vs Korea DPR

Photo credit: Ryu Voelkel


Their tie against Portugal gave them two yellows, but then consider North Korea's final match at the World Cup. While Brazil and Portugal were falling over each other in a game that saw seven players being cautioned with cards, the Communists played Ivory Coast in the one of only two matches where no cards were flashed for either side. (The other was the Spain-Germany semifinal.)

Just one more team joins Spain and North Korea as the only three teams to have played their opening match without collecting a card. They are the guys from across the 37th parallel: South Korea.

Say what you want about North Korea being a rogue nation. Obviously on the football field, they are anything but.

Seriously, say what you want about North Korea being a rogue nation. Obviously on the football field, they are anything but.

Out of the 32 nations that qualified for this World Cup, Asians made up three of the five teams to emerge card-free from at least one group match. Japan, the only other Asian nation in the tournament, and Italy, round up the good clean quintet.

After the first stage, it was left to South Korea and Japan to carry Asian hopes and proceed through to the next elimination round. They both got booted out of the World Cup at this point, but still, with a very respectable total of six and seven yellow cards each.

Compare them to Chile, which got just as far but with 12 yellows; or even the USA, which managed to collect 9.

Asians came to the World Cup with exacting standards of discipline. As far as we could, we also tried to uphold the standard of the game and penalise those who played dirty.

Japan's Yuichi Nishimura refereed four matches, and gave out the second most number of yellow cards – 17 in all. He also threw in two reds, for good measure.

So we Asians might not have got very far in South Africa, but we went, we played, and we stayed clean. That's the whole idea of sportsmanship, no?

Now if only we could figure how to score some goals, while we are at it...

 

 

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Let's hear it for North Korea!

Chinese Soccer - An Allegory of China's Status in the World

 

 

dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for theasiamag.com, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi