South Korean men’s World Cup qualifier attracts 64,375 fans amid soaring Covid-19 cases

The men’s national team had gone more than 11 years without beating Iran, but that streak ended on Thursday when they won 2-0 to top their World Cup qualifying group.

The moment saw 64,375 fans at the World Cup Stadium in Seoul, welcoming the largest number of spectators to a South Korean sporting event since pandemic I started.

South Korean captain Son Heung-min and defender Kim Young-gwon both celebrated home and celebrated their goals in front of the masked fans.

“I haven’t seen a crowd of 60,000 people recently, and the preparations for the match were festive, so I felt like the atmosphere was saturated even at the stadium gate,” Won Jong-In, a South Korean fan, told CNN Sports. “Of course, the match was good, but I think it’s fair to say the fans were energized. It was inspiring to see the lit Red Devils headbands filling the stands!

“It was a really good match. I don’t remember the last time I smiled and jumped watching the national team matches recently. I feel like I was at a festival.”

In a post-match interview broadcast on TV, Son said he missed laughing and enjoying the game with the fans.

Lots of fans came [to the game] Late on a weekday, he helps us play a good game,” Son said, thanking the spectators for filling the stands.

South Korea's Kim Young Joon celebrates his goal in front of the fans.

Limited viewers

Spectators carried colored cards spelling “We Missed You” before kick-off – something the Korea Football Association (KFA) had prepared to mark the return of a large crowd.

The South Korean Football Association said that they chose the statement to express the feelings of fans and players after the epidemic imposed a limit on the number of spectators able to attend matches.

When Covid-19 first hit the country in 2020, South Korea completely banned spectators from sporting events.

The K-League was among a handful of soccer leagues played behind closed doors after the global game was largely shut down.

The country managed to keep total Covid-19 cases relatively low until highly transmissible Omicron became the dominant alternative in January 2022.

With the variable spreading rapidly, health authorities decided to focus on reducing critical cases and deaths rather than dedicating their resources to reducing the total number of infections.

One out of every five South Koreans has contracted the Covid virus, with the latest wave seeing a spike in deaths

The total number of infections in the country since the pandemic began exceeded 10 million on Tuesday, meaning that one in five South Koreans has now been infected at some point in the pandemic.

But the country has stopped using vaccination permits, which were required to enter public facilities including sporting events, and will scrap the mandatory seven-day quarantine of fully vaccinated international travelers from April 1.

With the relaxation of measures, health authorities allowed up to 299 people at sporting events, but added that relevant ministries could grant permission for gatherings of 300 people and more.

On Thursday, 64,375 fans had their temperatures checked upon entry and sat in the stands with masks. However, vaccination and physical distancing permits were not enforced.

The KFA played pre-recorded sounds for the fans during the match, as chanting remains prohibited to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Pro Won told CNN he might note the lack of cheering as the biggest difference between games before the pandemic and now.

“In terms of football matches, I have to say chanting… I hope the Covid-19 virus will settle down soon so that the supportive culture like cheering will return.”

Fans raised messages before kick-off.

sold out game

Although South Korea had its deadliest day with the epidemic on Wednesday, with 470 deaths reported in a 24-hour period, Thursday’s game sold out.

The World Cup Stadium in Seoul, the country’s largest football stadium, has been sold only 10 times in history, including the record set on Thursday, according to the Korea Football Association.

Getting a ticket was very competitive. The ticket selling site struggled to get around the issue, and was down for 42 minutes as more than 230,000 people tried to access it simultaneously.

“Considering the traffic numbers for A-matches that were all sold out, we have prepared a server that is enough for 120,000 people to arrive at the same time this time,” the KFA said in a statement. statmentWe apologize for the inconvenience caused.

But those who managed to get tickets enjoyed a special night.

A few minutes before the final whistle, fans lit their phone lights to celebrate the end of the streak of no-victory against Iran.

“Last night, I felt so important to the fans again… I really missed it. Thank you so much. Thank you for making it a good night!!” The son wrote on his own Instagram Friday.

While fans at the match enjoyed returning to the stadium with the players and fans, some expressed their concerns online.

“Covid-19 infection is not decreasing but 60,000 seats have been sold in the World Cup stadium?” One chirp.
Another said, “Management has allowed the entire World Cup stadium to be sold out while Covid-19 infection and death are on the rise.” Wrote.

South Korea will travel to the UAE for their World Cup qualifier in Qatar on March 29, although the team has already secured its move to the World Cup in Qatar, scheduled for later this year.

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