A red sea in Seoul
Our stunning image captures a FIFA Fan Fest at its exhilarating best
22 million Koreans watched their matches on the streets
The Taeguk Warriors eliminated Italy and Spain en route to the semis
These days, FIFA World Cups are never remembered and celebrated only for events on the park.
Over the years, the carnival created in the towns and streets of the host country has become just as significant, with Korea/Japan 2002 a case in point.
For many, the defining image of that World Cup would be of Ronaldo – revitalised and redeemed – celebrating his goals in Brazil’s Final triumph. For plenty of others though, it would be the unprecedented scenes captured in the photograph above.
The subsequent growth of FIFA’s hugely popular Fan Fests certainly drew inspiration from the example provided by Korea Republic’s colourful army of supporters that year. Inside the stadium, the Red Devils were spectacular enough, with giant banners, drummers and noisy, orchestrated chanting making their games as atmospheric as any the competition has seen.
Yet it was on the streets, where red-shirted fans happily congregated to watch the matches on outdoor screens, that they made the biggest impression. The sheer scale of these gatherings were staggering, with over 2,000 of these screens watched by a cumulative total of over 22 million Koreans over the course of an unforgettable run to the semi-finals.
For one game alone – that last-four defeat to Germany - seven million packed out the nation’s streets in an extraordinary show of support and unity. And while it wasn’t enough to inspire the Taeguk Warriors to victory, the post-match fireworks that lit up the Seoul sky reflected that their team - and those fans themselves - had plenty of which to be proud.
Did you know? The FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich features a shirt worn by one of Korea Republic's all-time greats and a hero of that 2002 campaign.