Building regional friendship through football

Park Ji Il of South Korea's OhMyNews believes football will bring Australia and Asian nations closer together. Describing Australia as the “newest kid on the block,” and part of the most recent “family’” to move into the Asian suburb, he observed that Australia has so far tried to know its neighbours on a social basis.

"Seems like no one really wanted them to, but there was a house for sale and they grabbed it. To be fair, Australia has tried to assimilate with its near neighbors to the north. Australians cook and eat Asian style cuisine, teach school children Asian languages, holiday in Asia’s many tourist resorts, educate many Asian youngsters through university, and, most importantly, accept high numbers of Asian immigrants and provide much-needed foreign aid to the region’s poorer members."

What more could they possibly do to gain acceptance at the “Asian table”? Well, writes Park, there is another great aspect of modern society that could play an important role — that of sport.

"When people from one nation say that they love to beat another nation at a particular sport, they actually mean they love the fact that the other country is alive and well and participating with them in the contest. It is really a form of acceptance between nations. By partaking in an official pastime such as an organized sporting event, two nations can be drawn closer together ... "

With Australia's 1 January 2006 switch from the Oceania Football Confederation to Asia, there will be plenty of tests of Park's theory, this World Cup year alone!