Story by Rob Atkinson
10 years ago marks the end of the 2002 World Cup, which was hosted by both South Korea and Japan. When the joint bid of South Korea and Japan was accepted over Mexico’s by FIFA, it marked a landmark for the World Cup; not only was it held in Asia for the first time, but it was the first time that it had been co-hosted. After a hugely successful tournament, with both Japan and South Korea qualifying from the group stages as top of their groups and South Korea surprising everyone by achieving fourth place, what have the two countries achieved from the World Cup legacy?
So let’s look at how the teams have progressed in terms of world ranking and the development of the sport after the World Cup. Since hosting it, both countries have successfully qualified for the two other World Cups in Germany and South Africa. For Japan, they have achieved a World FIFA ranking of 23, whilst their World Cup partners, South Korea, are languishing down in 35th spot. Since the tournament, the sport has undoubtedly brought in much more interest in the sport and there has been a dramatic increase in grassroots programmes springing up, as well as strong youth development in both squads. This interest in the sport has not only been started by the event, but also in the aftermath of it with high publicity moves of national players to major European outfits, such as South Korea’s Park Ji Sung’s move to PSV Eindhoven and then onto Manchester United. With all of these programmes and policies being put in place and an emphasis in both of the countries’ football boards on developing players, the sport will continue to grow and become more and more important to both countries.
However, when it comes down to what’s been done with the stadia, it’s a completely different story. Rather than a promising outlook for the future, there isn’t much to look forward to when it comes down to attempting to fill the 40,000 to 67,000 seats week in and week out. Of course there are the local league games that are staged at these stadia and the international fixtures, but there isn’t enough support for them to keep it as economically viable as before. An example would be to look at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, with a capacity of 66,806 people. It is the home of FC Seoul and the national team, but more often than not for the league games, they are barely able to sell more than a third of the seats available for the matches. Of course whilst there aren’t any matches taking place, the stadium is open to tourists wanting to see where the matches were held, but that only goes so far to fill the economic void of the running of the stadium. This is the case with the other stadia built for the World Cup and will remain like this for the foreseeable future. Therefore both the countries lost a lot from hosting one of the greatest tournaments in the world and will question whether it is worth hosting another event on this scale in the future.
In terms of the legacy that was left in South Korea and Japan, it has done wonders for the sport in both countries, as it goes from strength to strength through introducing youngsters to the game and the national teams improving and providing a threat for a number of nations on the world stage. However, the amount of money that was put in to hosting the World Cup has fallen foul of expectations, with the stadia only just being economically viable and the interest in viewing the sport hasn’t quite reached what was expected after it.