WASHINGTON, July 17, 2013 - European clubs are once again heading to South Korea to play in the lucrative Peace Cup which kicks off on July 19 in Suwon, South Korea.
This is fifth edition of the Peace Cup which began in 2003. It’s smaller than other years, but this pre-season tournament still attracts notable clubs and boasts a whopping $2.5 million in prize money for the winner.
The four-team event - down from 12 teams in 2009 - will involve, host club Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, German team SV Hamburg, English Premier League club Sunderland and Dutch outfit FC Groningen. The clubs were chosen because of the South Korean soccer players who compete on the teams.
Unlike previous tournaments, all eight games will be played at Suwon World Cup Stadium, about an hour car ride south of Seoul.
Seongnam will take on Sunderland on July 19 followed the next day with Hamburg playing Groningen. Hamburg finished 15th in the Bundesliga last season, while Groningen came in 14th in the Dutch Eredivisie. The winners of the two games will meet at the final on July 22 in a doubleheader event, following the third-place match.
Seongnam is Korea’s most successful club. The Korean outfit, has won a record seven K-League titles, plus two Asian crowns, but has yet to win a Peace Cup game.
This year’s event has suffered a slight PR blow as Sunderland’s Korean star striker Ji Dong-Won was named to South Korea’s Olympic team and will miss his club’s games while he competes for his nation in London.
Martin O’ Neill Returns
This will be Martin O’Neill’s second trip to the Peace Cup. The Sunderland coach was at the helm of Aston Villa who beat Juventus to win the 2009 Peace Cup in Spain. O’Neill will use the event to test out promising youngsters such as Louis Laing and Ryan Noble, and hope to be the first coach to win the cup twice.
“This tournament has a proud history involving many of the world’s top clubs, and for Sunderland to be considered amongst them is a huge honour for us,” said the club’s chief executive Margaret Byrne.
The American-owned English team finished 13th in the Premier League last season. The Black Cats are using the event to boost their brand in the South-East Asia market.
Attracts Big Clubs
The traditional biennial summer tournament began in in 2003, a year after South Korea co-hosted the World Cup with Japan.
The $16 million inaugural event involved eight teams, including the Los Angeles Galaxy and 1860 Munich, and was won by Dutch team PSV Eindhoven. In 2005 English club Tottenham Hotspur won the event. Two years later, French champion Lyon, which had been the runner-up twice, downed Bolton Wanderers, to finally win the tournament.
The 2009 incarnation took on a more ambitious approach and was co-hosted by Spanish giant Real Madrid in Spain. Twelve clubs, including Italian giants Juventus, Spanish team Sevilla, Portuguese side Porto and English team Aston Villa, took part in the games. All but two of the 15 games were held at venues in the Andalucian region of Spain, home to Spanish entrants Sevilla FC and Malaga.
Ronaldo, whose $131 million transfer from Manchester United to Madrid was a world record, made his first appearance for his new club at the tournament.
The Peace Cup was founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, and is sponsored by the Sunmoon Peace Football Foundation, a corporate sister of The Washington Times.
The Peace Cup has never been shy about its role to promote peace and raise money for soccer programs in the developing world. The motto of the event is : “Play football, make peace…. transcending the barriers of ideologies religions, and cultures via football.”
Soccer has often tried to play a role in bringing peace.
Longtime enemies Japan and South Korea successfully played host to the 2002 World Cup. Old rivals Holland and Belgium played host to the 2000 European Championship. The game has even been known to help stop wars.
On Christmas Day 1914, German and British troops on the front lines during World War I put down their guns, came out of their muddy trenches and played a soccer game in No Man’s Land.
In 1990, rival factions in the Lebanon War took time out from killing each other to watch World Cup games beamed in from Italy. In 1969, Brazilian star Pele’s trip to Nigeria with his club, Santos, produced a three-day cease-fire in the Biafran War.
The Peace Cup is a soccer tournament hoping to carry on a noble tradition.
John Haydon covered all the previous Peace Cups in South Korea and Spain. For over 20 years he wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon
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