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September 23, 2017

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Taiwan sports can learn from South Korea's successes

The Taiwanese media reported, not without a hint of schadenfreude, the cold reception of the South Korean national soccer team at the airport as it returned home after an early exit from the World Cup.

Local TV news looped the clips of an angry Korean fan showering the team with pumpkin candy, an act of humiliation in the nation, and of a fan-made funeral banner saying "South Korean soccer is dead."

South Korea had a bad World Cup this year, finishing last in Group H after losing to Belgium and Algeria and drawing with Russia. For the first time since its spectacular advance to the semifinal at its home World Cup in 2002, the team failed to win a single match in a World Cup championship.

Taiwanese netizens were less subtle in their responses, calling the Korean team's poor result a "true representation of their capability." For the uninitiated, the Taiwanese fans' strong reaction to the performance of the Korean soccer team seems unfounded. Taiwan, after all, is not a participant in the 2014 Brazil World Cup.

It all started with the Koreans' controversial victory in the eighth final match against Italy in the 2002 World Cup. Byron Aldemar Moreno Ruales, the former Ecuadorian referee who officiated at the match, ruled in Korea's favor on several contentious occasions , including sending Italian striker Francesco Totti out for alleged diving, ruling a Italian golden goal (which would have ended the match with an Italian victory) invalid due to a wrong offside call and apparently turning a blind eye to the rough tackles by Korean players.

Moreno was suspended for twenty matches after the 2002 Japan/Korea World Cup. He hasn't officiated another World Cup match since. Even soccer's top decision-maker, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, keen to reject any allegations of conspiracy in helping a host nation pass the quarter-finals, accepted that Italy's elimination was in part due to the "disaster" of the offside call.

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