Can Korea become Japan’s rival again?

If someone asks where Korea’s rival is, most will pick Japan. Especially if that area is sports. There is a strong atmosphere that even if you lose in other games, you can’t lose in the ‘Korea-Japan match’, and the players actually make that kind of determination. Sometimes it’s to the point where coaches have to give advice so that we don’t get so preoccupied with it that it ruins the game.

However, if you look at the sports of Korea and Japan recently, the word match is meaningless. Let’s look at soccer first. Korea’s under-17 (U-17) team recently faced Japan in the final of the Asian Cup and lost 0-3. In the recent head-to-head matches of each level, they suffered five consecutive losses. Even the scores are all 0-3. At this level, Japan is close to Korea’s natural enemy.

Same goes for baseball. Korean baseball is on a six-game losing streak against Japan, starting with a loss at the 2017 Asian Professional Baseball Championship. In particular, the 4-13 defeat in the group stage of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) held in March revealed the grim reality. Japan cheered with the championship cup, and Korea later lost face as its players were embroiled in a drinking controversy.

KB Stars coach Kim Wan-soo and Shinhan Bank coach Guna Dan, who participated in the 2023 Japan Women’s Basketball (WJBL) summer camp held in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, Japan on the 15th and 17th, said in unison, “We must learn Japan.” They emphasized that Korean players should imitate the attitude of Japanese players. But at the same time, I knew that such a spirit comes from the soil of society, that is, from the sports infrastructure.

In fact, Japan’s women’s basketball infrastructure is incomparably richer than Korea’s. There are more than 500 high school teams in one region and 30 to 50 players. On the other hand, Korea has only 13 female high school teams participating in the weekend league. In a face-to-face match between female middle school teams, there were skits in which only 5 players were allowed to participate, so the team with only 1 player left on the court was forfeited after missing players due to injury or dismissal.

Like this, the thoughts of the players who play in a place where many players go through competition and come to the professional stage and in a place where they have to worry about the existence of the league due to difficulties in supply and demand of players have different thoughts. Even so, we easily took issue with the mentality of the players whenever events were sluggish. The essence of the baseball team drinking controversy was like that. Even with women’s volleyball, which is experiencing a decline after key players such as Kim Yeon-kyung (Heungkuk Life Insurance) left the national team, it is not uncommon to hear cynical voices saying, “Fans who do not even know volleyball and players who became celebrities because of their popularity.”먹튀검증

After the first day of summer camp, on the 15th, around 6pm, I walked down Takasaki Street. Three boys were playing volleyball in a playground. “No. 20, No. 21, No. 22.” The children who repeatedly received and tossed while counting were tanned by the sun. Watching them play volleyball with a smile despite the hot weather, I thought it had been a long time since I had seen children playing sports on the streets of Korea. The children said they were in the 6th grade of elementary school, and smiled brightly as they shouted “Thank you!” to me as I left.

Where were the 6th graders in Korea at that time? I don’t know how valuable it is to emphasize the mental strength of players in a society where even children’s mental health has to be worried due to lack of exercise. If Korea and Japan are to become ‘opponents’ again, aren’t there some things that really need to change?

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