• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
An obscure game from a far-off land – Gaelic football – is taking a somewhat unlikely spot on the South Korean athletic landscape.
The country recently capped its 10 years of participation in the sport by hosting its first-ever Asian Gaelic Games this past October. More than 50 teams from 14 countries with more than 700 male and female players came together for two days of Gaelic football and hurling – another Irish national sport. The 15th annual tournament was reportedly to be the largest held to date.
This year’s competition, staged in Suwon, a city just south of Seoul, marked a decade of relative growth for a sport often described as a rugby-
soccer hybrid in a country normally most at ease with soccer and baseball.
Back in 2001, the Irish expatriates who introduced the game to the country were met with quizzical stares and tentative questions from bemused locals as they performed some of Gaelic football’s signature modes of play: typical moves include punch-passes and soloing, a technique that involves dropping the ball and then toe kicking it upward into the hands.
Over the years, though, the sport has spread across the country, picking up a steady flow of locals eager to learn how to play what is regarded as one of the world’s oldest sports.