American football gets star exposure in Korea

American football ('gridiron') is hardly known in Korea, let alone understood. But suddenly Hines Ward, the most valuable player of the code's 2006 National Football League (USA) Super Bowl has been featured in nearly every South Korean newspaper and on television, from waving to fans during a victory parade or replaying his 43-yard touchdown catch that was the key play in the Pittsburgh Steelers's 21-10 victory over Seattle.

Hines is half-Korean. Born to a black American father and Korean mother, Hines said before the game he planned an April trip with his mother to his native South Korea - the 29-year-old receiver's first visit as an adult. The country's two main airlines are jockeying for the privilege of ferrying them to Seoul, where they can expect the trappings of a state visit.

According to AP News, Ward has been mentioned as a possible candidate for a state award, and some have called on internet message boards for him to be granted honorary citizenship. South Korea's main KBS television channel plans to broadcast a documentary on him and his name was the most-searched keyword this week on the sports section of popular website Naver - eclipsing soccer idol Park Ji-sung, who plays for England's Manchester United.