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Jeonju Hosts the Opening Match of FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea 2017!

Many people were wearing red t-shirts in Jeonju last Saturday. Why? Because the opening match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea 2017 between the host, Republic of Korea, and Guinea was held in Jeonju. For 23 days, 24 countries around the world compete in U-20 World Cup 2017.

As the second largest among the FIFA tournaments after the senior men’s national teams tournament, the U-20 World Cup is the third FIFA tournament to be held in Korea. Since this year’s world cup is an opportunity to witness the future Messi and Ronaldo, Jeonju World Cup Stadium’s thirty-eight thousand seats for the opening match were already sold out.

I also reserved a good seat beforehand and waited long for the opening day. Let’s head off to the exciting opening match at Jeonju World Cup Stadium then?

 

OK, everything’s ready!

As a K-League (Korea Professional Football League) fan, I had regrets that Jeonju World Cup Stadium wasn’t available for a while due to the preparations for the U-20 World Cup. However, I was excited to see the renovated stadium. Twelve-billion won was invested to improve the grass, illumination, sound system, and other facilities. Also, public transports, shuttle buses, and temporary parking lots are increased to carry people to the stadium more conveniently. It seemed that Jeonju is 100% ready for this big event.

Since it’s a FIFA World Cup tournament, the security check was thorough. My heart was throbbing as it was the first time for me to be in such an international event.

Past the security check, the festive mood was heightened. I was surprised to see the famous sports commentators Kim Sung-joo and Ahn Jung-hwan being interviewed in front of cameras, and also a former member of the national soccer team, Lee Chun-soo was there. Seeing the stars of the 2002 World Cup Korea-Japan reminded me of the World Cup fever back then!

 

The opening ceremony!

The stadium was already filled with soccer fans, because there was a match between Argentina versus England before the Korea versus Guinea match. Seeing the enthusiastic crowd, I could truly realize that a FIFA World Cup tournament match is being held in Jeonju. The air was quite different from the K-League matches.

After England scored the third goal, the match between Argentina and England ended. The opening ceremony followed at 6:30 pm. Under the slogan, “Trigger the Fever,” the ceremony started with the Korean traditional wind and string ensemble, entrance of the national flags of the 24 participating nations, and performances depicting Taegeukgi, the Korean national flag.

Most of all, the city of Jeonju introduced a football-shaped drone which flew over the stadium. When the huge football flying over the air approached the audiences, I couldn’t close my mouth. It was so beautiful that I had to watch it again when I got back home later that day.

At the end of the ceremony, the popular boy band NCT DREAM sang the official song of the World Cup “Trigger the Fever.” Although I am not a fan to idol bands, I could feel the heightened mood around me.

The ceremony lasted about twenty minutes, and the match between Korea and Guinea was set to begin in an hour. Thanks to fried chicken and beer, a typical Korean snack for watching sports, that one hour flew fast. Also, with cool breeze blowing into the stadium, the temperature was just right to enjoy the match.

 

Again, 2002 World Cup!

Against the glow of sunset, the Korean players entered the ground. As they began stretching their body, the crowd cheered. The Korean team was set to relive the success of the 1983 Mexico World Cup, in which the team advanced to the round of four.

A crowd of Korean team supporters in red devils t-shirts brought huge national flag and banners which reminded of the 2002 World Cup. ‘We are boys with high dreams’ written on one of the banners made me automatically sing ‘Pick Me’ by the girl band IOI. As 8 pm drew near, the forty thousand seats were filled and ready for the match of the day.

 

Korean team on the ‘shut up and go offensive’ strategy from the Jeonju K-League players!

The Korean team in red uniform wisely worked out the game. In the beginning, it seemed that Guinea, a strong African team, seemed to gain initiative. However, the tide turned when Lee Seung-woo of FC Barcelona made the first goal of the match. The crowd stood up and rejoiced.

The crowd’s reactions before and after the goal by Lee Seung-woo.

Although the second goal scored during the first half was nullified by the head umpire, the offensive of the Korean team and crowd cheering only got stronger. As the match took place in Jeonju, the city renowned for beautiful Hanok Village and Korean traditional culture, some of the crowds were wearing Hanbok (Korean traditional costume). This must have been very uncommon in the eyes of the overseas visitors.

In the second half, Lim Min-hyuk and Paik Seung-ho each scored a goal. The fans crowd surfed while shouting ‘Dae-han-min-guk (Republic of Korea).’ Some of them were pouring flower petals as they crowd surfed. The flying petals seemed to envision the bright future for the Korean team in this U-20 World Cup.

Korea won the match 3-0 with the ripple of applause from the crowd. The team will play against Argentina in the upcoming 23rd (Tuesday) 8pm at Jeonju World Cup Stadium. Since Argentina lost 3-0 to England, the Korean team with high moral has high hopes for beating Argentina and advance to the round of 16. So, don’t miss the game as the team need your enthusiastic support at the Jeonju stadium!

 

Beyond the football city and towards the football capital!

During the 2002 World Cup, no matches involving Korea was held in Jeonju. However, since the 2017 U-20 World Cup opening match held in Jeonju, it is time for the city to become the football capital of Korea! I still cannot forget the shout of victory from the crowd, and also I look forward to the upcoming K-League matches at the Jeonju stadium.

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If not just the people of Jeonju, but the whole nation supports the U-20 World Cup, I am sure that our players will become future generation Messi and Ronaldo. Let’s shout together ‘Dae-han-min-guk!’ Go team Korea!

 

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