SHAFAQNA – Players on both sides wept with relief and anguish after South Korea scored a last second victory over its fraternal enemy North Korea to win the gold medal in the football final of the Asiad competition. The defender Rim Chang Woo scored in the last minute of extra time to win a 1-0 victory over North Korea after a doggedly fought match played in the rain in the South Korean city of Incheon. The home crowd of 47,000 cheered tumultuously when the whistle blew a few seconds later, as all 22 players slumped to the ground.
It was the South’s fourth football gold in the event, but the symbolism has never been more intense. The two fought a civil war between 1950 and 1953, and have faced one another across the world’s last Cold War border ever since. Incheon, moreover, was the site of the amphibious landings by US forces under General Douglas MacArthur, which turned the tide of the Korean War against the communist North.
North Korea had to play without its best striker, Jong Il Gwan, who was sent off after scoring the winning extra time goal to defeat Iraq in the semi-final. The team’s coach, Yun Jong Su, had expressed fears in advance of biased refereeing.
A number of athletes in the Asian Games have complained about decisions which they claim have favoured South Koreans over foreigners. But there was little doubt about yesterday’s decisive goal, which came from a South Korean corner.
The South Korean players will be rewarded with an exemption from two years of compulsory military service. The North can take consolation in the victory of their women’s football team in the final against their other great historical enemy, Japan.
During that game, a South Korean man was removed from the stadium for waving a North Korean flag, an illegal act in the South.