Since the World Cup started I have lost plenty of sleep waking up early to see the drama and excitement of the greatest sport in the world being played on the largest stage in the world. More importantly something really cool is happening with two Asian teams that have advanced into the Round of 16 (the knockout round). South Korea and Japan have not only advanced into the knockout stage, but have done so with conviction and confidence.
What does this mean for Asians and Asian Americans here in the US? A few things; in this dramatic game that is often more dramatic than any film that South Korea or Japan can produce, these teams have overcome traditional powers in the international game and have done so with class and strength. This is also a great stereotype killer that has on many occasions subjugated Asian males as not being worthy leaders, or strong and confident.
When Japan defeated Denmark 3 -1 yesterday (2 goals off free kicks, which is very rare and awesome!), there was a sense that the "bigger and stronger" Danes were being out-runned, out-gunned, and muscled out of chances and opportunities. This from a Japanese team that was not perceived as being capable of such greatness. Japan do have a tough test ahead as they face Paraguay (who stormed through their group), but after beating up on the Danes, should be ready for the test.
The South Korean team has been able to hang with some strong teams (Greece and Nigeria, both experienced and athletic), but they have a little more to prove. The one black-eye on their record in the cup is a 4-1 loss to Argentina (quite possibly the best team in the tournament). If South Korea can defeat Uruguay (who have been playing well) then no Korean Drama could replicate the euphoria that Korean fans will feel.
This world cup is important to many teams and many countries (including my beloved Red Fury of Spain), and if Japan and South Korea can advance to the quarter-finals, semis, or the final (wow, that would be awesome) then this wonderful and dramatic sport will continue to connect to more Asians and Asian Americans, and create great leaders.