Seoul, South Korea | AFP | South Korea’s captain has upset his team’s fans by blaming them for disrupting on-field communications during a home draw with Iran that left their World Cup hopes in the balance.
The 0-0 against 10-man South Korea national football teamleaves the Taeguk Warriors having to defeat Uzbekistan in Tashkent on Tuesday to be certain of a place at a ninth successive World Cup finals.
Any other result will leave their Russia 2018 fate in the hands of third-placed Syria, who will be facing Iran — the Group A winners — in Tehran.
On Thursday, Iran played most of the second half at the Seoul World Cup Stadium a man down after Saeid Ezatolahi’s red card, but South Korea could not find a way through, despite being roared on by a noisy crowd of 63,000.
The kick-off had been delayed by half an hour to give more supporters a chance to get to the game, in a country notorious for long working hours.
But Kim Young-Gwon said the raucous support had made the team’s job harder.
“It was quite difficult to communicate with the guys because it was noisy out there,” Kim said when asked where South Korea had to improve.
“We could yell all we wanted and still couldn’t hear each other well. We prepared ourselves for a situation like this, but it was still frustrating that I couldn’t hear the guys,” he added.
South Korea have had a bumpy qualifying campaign, losing coach Uli Stielike after a run of poor results including defeats to China, Iran and Qatar, and Kim’s comments infuriated fans.
“I’ve never seen a player who blames the crowd for a lacklustre match,” one wrote on the Naver portal. “Shame on you.”
Another added: “Do you really think you would have performed better if we remained quiet? I don’t think so.”
As anger mounted, Kim issued an apology Friday through a team official over what he called a “slip of the tongue”.
“I apologise to all the fans who came out to cheer us on,” Kim said.
“I didn’t mean to say those things. There were so many things going through my head, and I made a mistake. I deeply regret that.”