Players from Korea University and Harvard University pose for a photograph before playing a friendly at Korea University’s campus in Seoul, Monday. Harvard beat Korea 2-1. / Yonhap
By Park Si-soo
Academically superb students can be untalented in sports, while school athletes on scholarships could be poor in studying. That’s the general perception in South Korea.
However, that’s not true for schools in the U.S. and many other countries. And Harvard University students showcased that in a friendship soccer match in Seoul, Monday.
The team from the prestigious U.S. school defeated the Korea University squad who spent much of their teenage years only practicing the sport to enter the university.
Players from Harvard were ordinary students with various non-sports majors.
The first ever match between the two prestigious schools took place on the field at the Korean university campus in Seoul, with more than 800 students and professors watching the game.
Korea University middle fielder Sun Seung-woo scored the first goal 16 minutes into the game. But Alex Chi, a Korean-American majoring in economics at Harvard, scored at 66 minutes, and the Boston-based school grabbed a come-from-behind victory with another goal by Jamie Rees just minutes before the whistle blew.
Kim Ho-kyung, president of the Harvard Project Korea, a private education institute, organized the event, in cooperation with Casey Lartigue, a Harvard graduate now working in Seoul as a business consultant. The Korean Association of Science and Technology Camp sponsored it.
“All players from both teams played real hard even though it was a friendly match. It was a great game,” Kim said.
Kim said he wishes the game will help break Koreans’ general belief that school sports players are poor in academic achievement without exception.
“It has been a long-established idea in Korea that school athletes are dumb. But I want to break that stereotype thinking through Harvard students who are good at study and sports as well,” Kim said.
Following the match, Harvard’s Chi said, “I’m very glad to score in the country of my parents.”
Among the Harvard players was Richard Smith who turned down a call from a team in England’s Premier League to study biochemistry. He is hoping to become a medical doctor.
Carl Junot, head coach for the 20-member Harvard soccer team, said Korean players were impressive in their “technically capable” playing.
He cited “enjoyment” as a recipe for his players.
“It’s very difficult for them to pursue excellence in academics and sports at the same time because they struggle to meet the high demand for academic achievement,” he said. “That’s the reason why I stress enjoyment. I want to share this philosophy with other universities.”
The Harvard team will leave for the U.S. on May 31 after having matches with the Seoul National University team and U-20 national soccer team.