The Words of the Son Family

Football 'Peace Cup' to Overcome Division

Byung Ho Son
July 6, 2005
Interview with John Duerden (internews)

Eight soccer teams from around the world will come to Korea July 15-24

When trying to spread the message of peace around the world, soccer, with its reputation for violence, nationalism and aggression doesn't immediately spring to mind as the most suitable vehicle.

However, the SunMoon Foundation in South Korea is set upon doing just that, overcoming conflict, ideology and division with the second Peace Cup that will be held throughout South Korea from July 15-24.

Eight teams from around the world will battle it out on the pitch to take home the prize of $2 million.

The participants are: Group A

Seongnam Ilhwa (Korea)
Six-time champions-owned by the Chairman of the SunMoon foundation.

PSV Eindhoven (Holland)
Eighteen time Dutch champions and team of Guus Hiddink and Korean International Lee Young Pyo.

Lyon (France)
French champions for the last three years

Once Caldas (Colombia)
Winners of 2004 Libertadoras Cup -- the South American club competition.

Group B

Tottenham Hotspur (England)
London-based Premier League team, known for attacking football.

Boca Juniors (Argentina)
Legendary team -- Diego Maradona's first club and 22 time Champions.

Real Sociedad (Spain)
Korean star Lee Chun Soo will play his last game for the two-time champs in the Peace Cup

Sundowns F (S Africa)
Three time champions

Son Byung Ho, former General Secretary for the Citizens Federation for the Unification of South and North Korea, now has the slightly shorter title of the Secretary General of the Peace Cup but his former experience has come in useful in his new role.

Son Byung Ho

"Dealing with North Koreans has helped me organize the Peace Cup," the 48 year-old told OhmyNews.

"In 1991, the founder of the Peace Foundation, Reverend Moon (Sun Myung) visited Pyongyang to talk to Kim Il Sung. The two agreed to co-operate to bring peace between North and South Korea. Organizing seminars was one way of doing so."

Son was heavily involved with the project. "I organized a seminar between students from the North and South -- the focus was peace and what they could do to help bring about unification."

The affable chief leans forward, "there are many similarities between the seminars and the Peace Cup. In the beginning there was ideological conflict between the students but both parties- with encouragement and motivation -- could learn not to fight."

"Football is the same -- PSV and Seongnam have to fight on the pitch but after the game there can be peace and unity. It looks like all eight teams are fighting but in reality they are one- participants of the same competition.

Choosing the participating octet was one of the easier parts of the job for Son as he had a number of criteria.

"The club must have the ability to represent their continent, must have won their own league championship and be the champions of that league now or be a big club in a big league."

The organizers see the Peace Cup as becoming an important part of the international calendar and have hopes that it can one day be the unofficial World Club Championship.

"In 2003 we achieved a 14 percent share of the TV audience with SBS," said the Secretary General, "and this time we have better teams and the games will be shown around the world -- Eurosport and Telemundo in the United States and on South American TV and Super TV in Africa."

"If we can continue to improve the teams that we invite and improve broadcasting we will become bigger and better and one of the most important football tournaments in the world," enthused the Chungbuk University Major.

To achieve such a lofty goal, Son is prepared to move the competition to another country.

"It is possible that the next Peace Cup may not even be held in Korea, there is no reason why we can't move somewhere else," he declared.

Such a move could be beneficial for the competition as the organizers have experienced some problems in South Korea.

"The Korean sports marketing industry is not well developed -- it is not easy to do business," Son explained, "things are not clear, they are corrupt and it is difficult to know who to believe."

A more tangible problem is that, despite the scenes of 2002, South Koreans prefer to watch sport from the comfort of their living rooms and are often reluctant to venture out to see games "live."

"Football is popular here but people don't go to the stadiums -- how can we change this?

However, there should be a big crowd at the opening game at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Friday July 15th as Seongnam Ilhwa take on PSV Eindhoven.

A number of eyebrows were raised at the decision to select the Korean team as the one to represent Asia as since winning the title in 2003, Ilhwa have struggled domestically. There have been suggestions that Seongnam were chosen simply because of the club's ties to the SunMoon foundation -- they are both owned by Kwak Chung Hwan.

Son refuted such a theory, "This is the second Peace Cup and Seongnam gave a lot of support last time. However, that doesn't always mean that they will always participate. If they meet the standard then the cup is open to them -- they are still a strong team with six titles and reached the AFC Champions League final last year."

PSV, the 2003 winners, come to Seoul with Korean legend Guus Hiddink and World Cup star Lee Young Pyo. Unfortunately for fans in the southern half of the peninsula, Park Ji Sung recently joined Manchester United and won't appear at the Peace Cup.

There will still be a number of stars on display that the organizers hope will attract the crowds from home and abroad.

Around 3,000 Japanese fans are said to have bought tickets, 1,000 Tottenham fans are expected all the way from England, South African travel agencies have been selling package tours to the cup which has been advertised on television in the region.

Hopefully the wet season will be over by the time the stars strut their stuff in Seoul, Busan, Suwon, Ulsan, Gwangju and Daejeon and a good number of locals and visitors can enjoy the global soccer festival.

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