South Korea hope to lift curse of fake gold
No title since 1960 champs given gold-plated medals
South Korean football officials have presented the children of four dead players with gold medals in what is being seen as an attempt to lift a supposed curse on the team at the Asian Cup.
The Taeguk Warriors are an Asian footballing powerhouse, making nine consecutive appearances at the World Cup Finals since 1986, reaching the semi-finals in 2002, and taking bronze at the 2012 London Olympics.
But they have not lifted the Asian Cup since winning its first two editions in 1956 and 1960.
They have qualified from the group stage at the current tournament in the UAE, and face China today to decide who will top Group C, boosted by the arrival of talismanic Tottenham Hotspur striker Son Heung Min.
Among some superstitious South Koreans, the title drought is blamed on fake gold medals the Korean Football Association handed their players to celebrate the 1960 victory.
The decorations turned out to be gold-plated lead - many believe a corrupt official pocketed the money set aside for the precious metal - and South Korea's hopes of winning the tournament have gone down like a lead balloon ever since.
"The gold medals we received were fake," Park Kyung Hwa, a member of the 1960 team, told Yonhap news agency.
"They were coated with cheap gold and the coating peeled off easily."
The outraged players returned the fake medals and demanded the KFA present them real ones, but have had to wait for more than 50 years to receive them.
In 2014, the KFA finally made pure gold medals for the 1960 team, but could only contact three surviving footballers and family members of three more who had died.
The following year, South Korea reached the Asian Cup final for the first time since 1988, but lost 2-1 to Australia in extra time.
"Giving back six gold medals wasn't apparently powerful enough to fully break the curse," Yonhap said, adding the KFA was "hoping" for "more power" to lift the spell.
A day before the current tournament opened, relatives of four more deceased 1960 players were presented with pure gold medals at the KFA headquarters in Seoul.
Eight members of the 1960 squad have yet to receive their rightful prizes, however.
A KFA official denied the timing of the ceremony was linked to the curse, insisting to AFP that the project was a work in progress. But the families at the ceremony hoped it would inspire the current team. - AFP