제 17 장
When we touchdown back in Daegu, we go to meet Frank and Justin in an English pub somewhere downtown. South Korea are playing Australia tonight in the Asian football cup final, so we find them sitting under the biggest TV in the bar, waiting for the game to start. I go and join them while Joey sorts the drinks.
Frank still seems a bit on edge, taking every opportunity to complain about something, whether it be the heat, the lighting, or the ‘hard of hearing’ barmaid.
‘I heard these Korean fellas get off their military service if they win tonight,’ Frank says, chewing on a peanut.
‘That’s right,’ Justin confirms.
‘It’s barbaric if you ask me, them havin’ to do it. What if they don’t even like their country?’
‘Does everyone have to do military service?’ I ask.
‘Yep.’ Joey returns. ‘Besides the ladies.’
‘That’s a pisser as well,’ Frank continues. ‘Oh, like, you can have a female president, but girls don’t have to do military service?’
‘I don’t think they’re really the same thing,’ Justin sighs.
‘Sure, they are.’ Frank flaps his lips. ‘It’s all about equality, isn’t it?’
‘And what happens if they don’t do it?’ I ask.
‘You get locked up. Thrown away, like a criminal.’
’Well, they are technically criminals, Frank.’
’Not proper ones, Justin!’
‘Okay.’ Justin rolls his eyes and turns to face the TV screen. ‘Whatever…’
Both the Australians and Koreans have now taken to the field. The national anthem plays through the speakers and the Koreans in the pub sing softly along to the patriotic tune.
‘Man, I wanna see Australia win this one,’ Frank declares, glancing around the pub. ‘Be funny to see these Koreans all sad and disappointed.’
‘You’re weird, man,’ Justin frowns. ‘Australia isn’t even Asia. Come on, support the country you actually live in.’
‘Nah, no way.’ Frank grins menacingly. ‘I wanna see tears tonight.’
Throughout the first half, South Korea play just as well as Australia, but are caught off-guard by a late forty-five-minute goal. Frank initially looks pleased, but as he observes the reactions of the Koreans in the pub, he gains no satisfaction – they merely applaud the Australian goal and carry on like before.
‘Smug bastards,’ he comments, leaving the table to go to the bar.
He returns as the second half is about to start.
‘Can’t get served for fifteen minutes,’ he complains. ‘Even in an English pub.’
‘Yeah.’ Joey smirks. ’But you’re Irish. Still not welcome here.’
‘Oh, quiet.’ Frank glowers. ‘She probably just thinks I’m an Aussie or somethin’.’
The game gets back underway with Australia kicking off the second half.
Frank continues to try and spark a reaction out of the Koreans by cheering on the Aussies, but much to his dismay, they pay very little attention to him.
South Korea spend most of the second half fighting for their lives, desperately searching for an equalizer, unfortunately with little success. Frank points out one of the players as South Korea’s best, their ‘national treasure’, the only one that might stand a chance of saving them now. But the player looks frustrated and worn out. Every pass he makes is either too long or too short, and whenever he gets anywhere near the goal, he gets tackled or sends the ball sky-high.
The game looks lost for the Koreans as the ninety-minute mark approaches. Frank stands himself up and starts celebrating prematurely, clapping his hands together, chanting in support of the Aussies: ‘Australia! Oh, Australia!’
A couple of added minutes remain, and the best player continues to force himself up and down the pitch, perhaps still dreaming of the prospect of no military service.
In one last attempt, he lofts the ball across to another Korean loitering on the wing, who then passes it to another just outside the box. The entire South Korean team surges forward in support of the attack and the Australians look perplexed, their faces panic-stricken as they try to maintain their formation. Frank’s smug grin slides away from his face, and he sighs exasperatedly at the crumbling Australian defence. ‘No, no,’ he mutters, ‘no… surely not.’
One Korean manages to slip inside the box, and an Australian lunges in for a tackle, but the masterful Korean knocks it smoothly to another teammate who’s been hanging around the edge of the six-yard-box. The Koreans in the pub all jump out of their seats and scream at the TV, Kick the ball! they must be saying, Kick it now!
And he does - he jabs the ball into the bottom right corner, equalizing for South Korea at the very last breath. The Korean players come together to celebrate, hugging, laughing, blowing kisses to the crowd. Their fans gaze proudly at replays of the goal, uttering a disbelieving ‘wow’ every time it’s shown. Frank grumbles and keeps his head down while Joey leaves to get another round.
With that slight glimmer of hope, a different kind of energy resides in the pub now. Extra time begins and the Koreans smile affectionately at the TV, their faces dazzling with excitement whenever their team gets on the ball, bursting to witness another moment of magic like before.
‘Australia, oh, Australia…’ Frank continues to mumble.
‘Still backing the Australians?’ Joey returns with the drinks.
‘Well, someone’s got to,’ Frank moans.
‘Fair enough, then.’ Joey sips his beer quietly.
Despite the Koreans showing real determination throughout the half, nothing seems to work for them. Their wingers speed up and down the pitch, the best player constantly feeding them passes, but their hard work never materialises.
The fifteen minutes draws to a close and the Australians lazily kick the ball around their own half like they’ve given up trying. One passes to another, who passes to another, who pokes the ball about, vaguely looking out for someone further afield.
An added minute is announced, and the Australian must’ve spotted something because he lobs the ball diagonally across the pitch, all the way over to the feet of another fellow Australian who cuts into the box, darts around a couple of weary Korean defenders, and after getting one on one with the goalkeeper, taps the ball into the back of the net.
Frank can hardly believe his mortal eyes. He springs from his seat and surveys the pub, laughing almost uncontrollably as he discerns the drooping, jaded faces of the remaining Koreans. ‘Hehehehe!’ he giggles, holding his stomach all the way to the bar.
Really looking like they’ve lost their sting now, South Korea tiredly kick off the final episode of the match. Their supporters seem to have given up on them, too, either choosing to ignore the events on screen or abandoning the pub entirely.
The players slog around like zombies for the whole fifteen minutes, eventually put out of their misery when the final whistle blows.
Frank stands up again and applauds the Australians as they lift the trophy. ‘Yes, boys!’ he cries out. ‘Now, that’s how you do it! The beautiful game – that was it, right there, lads!’
‘Give it a rest, Frank,’ Justin commiserates.
’Never!’ Frank snarls, slamming his hand on the table. ‘Now it’s their turn to be losers in Korea! See how it feels!’