My World Cup Story: World-Class Hospitality in South Korea
This is part of a series of reader-submitted stories about World Cup adventures and traditions. Click here to submit your own.
By Steve Buckeridge, Loveland, Ohio:
I boarded the flight from Chicago to Seoul in 2002 without any reservations (hotel, train, bus, etc.) or game tickets. After befriending a Korean man on the 12-hour flight and clearing customs, he had a bus ticket and hotel reserved in Daejon for me and wouldn't take any payment.
Although the United States lost, 1-3, to Poland on my 35th birthday, the USA and Korea both advanced to the knockout stage. Daejon, and all of Korea, became one big party. The streets filled to form an instant national celebration and time came to a joyous halt. The United States of course went on to beat Mexico Dos a Cero to reach the quarterfinal.
I also stayed in Samsung Village outside of Suwon for two nights prior to watching the Spain vs. Ireland Round of 16 game. I was matched up by the Korean organizing committee with a Samsung engineer and his family and they were wonderful; they treated me like royalty even though they had a basic two-bedroom apartment. Their 11 year-old son was the only family member who spoke fluent English and he was my 24/7 tour guide for two days. He even helped order food and beer for 100-plus Spanish/Irish fans and me in a local Korean pub right before the Spain/Ireland game -- he was a rock star!
The hospitality of the Korean people and the best U.S. World Cup showing in recent time was a perfect way to spend my fourth straight World Cup in person.