| PSV captain Mark van Bommel with the Peace Cup in Seoul on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Seoul: Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven lifted the Peace Cup pre-season tournament on Tuesday but their coach Guus Hiddink was the real winner, once again, with South Korea’s ever-enthusiastic fans.
A first-half penalty from Mark van Bommel gave PSV the $2 million prize against French champions Olympique Lyon in a match that looked as if it was being played in a rice paddy rather than Asia’s largest soccer-only stadium.
It was in the stadium where South Korea’s incredible World Cup run under Dutchman Hiddink ended when they lost in the semi-final to Germany last year — still the furthest any Asian side has gone in the tournament.
“I had the experience and joy from last year. It was not in the same measure as last year but it was a nice memory to come back,” Hiddink told reporters. “Being here now playing football in this stadium, in this country, I enjoyed it very much. It was a kind of memory which was very sweet.”
Most of the fans seemed to be cheering for PSV, including a block of Koreans behind one goal in PSV kit where the South Korean fans would normally stand for an international.
“This is another chance to go ‘back to the past’. I am very excited to see Hiddink once again,” said Choi Joon-sung, a 26-year-old student. “He’ll always be welcome here.”
The Peace Cup, which comprised eight clubs from five continents, was backed by the Reverend Moon Sun-myung’s Unification Church, whose followers are commonly known as ‘Moonies’ after their founder.
But it was Hiddink in the spotlight on Tuesday, not Moon. “The flutter of his wings will rule the world”, read one banner in Korean.
But Hiddink took a down-to-earth approach to the adulation.
“What I feel is a warm welcome every time I touch Korean soil... I don’t consider myself a hero in that sense of the word,” he said. “There are many ‘heroes’ who don’t have the publicity I had last year.”
Hiddink is keeping ties, as an adviser to the Korean Football Association, and in addition has set up a foundation to help the underprivileged, mostly in South Korea.
He also has his eyes on young talented players.