This Sunday at Suwon World Cup Stadium 44,000 fans will watch the biggest clash in South Korean football, between the Suwon Samsung Bluewings and FC Seoul.
Fans will also see North Korean star striker Jong Tae-Se try to cement his status as the new hero of Suwon.
Pyongyang may not exactly be flavor of the month south of the 38th Parallel, but Suwon fans will leave politics aside if Jong scores the winning goal in the “Super Match.”
Jong, nicknamed “The People’s Rooney” after the similarly combative Manchester United and England attacker Wayne Rooney, joined the Bluewings in January from FC Koln in Germany. His performances this season have already won the hearts of Suwon fans.
Jong was well known in South Korea long before joining Suwon and long before he shot to global fame at the 2010 World Cup. In South Africa, he burst into tears as the North Korean anthem was played before the team’s opening game against Brazil.
Jong was born and raised in Japan to Korean parents, one from each side of the divide, and regards himself as North Korean. Like a number of Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) players, he made his professional debut in the J-League. He first became known in South Korea during his stint playing for Kawasaki Frontale. He visited the country in the Asian Champions League in 2007.
Understandably, Jong, as media-savvy as they come, has not given his opinion about the current crisis on the Korean peninsula. Even if he wanted to, it would not be a wise thing to do. In the past, when asked about relations between North and South, his gave an answer along the lines of hoping that football can bring the two together.
And he is living proof that it can, at least to a small extent. Suwon fans see a player willing to give their all for the team. In the build-up to the game on Sunday, he said he will be doing everything he can to help his team vanquish their rivals.
He mentioned especially looking forward to competing against World Cup star and FC Seoul member Cha Du-ri. “It will be really good to be able to play in this rival match,” Jong said. “I will shake hands with Cha as a goal celebration after I score.”