South Koreans say sorry to China over foot-on-trophy 'insult'

Shanghai (AFP) –


South Korea's victorious under-18 footballers apologised to "all the people in China" after a picture emerged of one of their players celebrating with his foot on the Panda Cup.

The Koreans were accused of disrespect after they defeated hosts China 3-0 on Wednesday to win the youth international competition in the city of Chengdu.

The photograph caused uproar in Chinese media and on social media, with the organising committee accusing the Koreans of "a serious insult".

Demanding an immediate apology, the Chengdu Football Association hinted that South Korea would not be invited back to the annual tournament.

South Korea's squad and coaches subsequently appeared late in the evening at their hotel and made a public apology in which all the players and staff bowed deeply.

"First of all, we apologise for the situation, one of our players made a huge mistake," said one South Korean team official.

Reading from a statement in English, he added: "We are really sorry for the mistake again and we humbly apologise to all the fans, all the players and also all the people in China.

"We hope to keep a good relationship with the CFA (Chinese Football Association) and KFA (Korea Football Association).

"(We) apologise again," he added, bowing.

One of the players, thought to be the one pictured with his foot on the trophy, also read an apology and bowed.

It remains to be seen whether that is the end of the matter, however, with claims from a photo journalist that the jubilant Koreans also pretended to urinate against the cup.

The CFA has also lodged a complaint with the Asian Football Confederation about the player placing his foot on the trophy.

Chinese media meanwhile documented other instances of perceived injustices at the hands of South Korean teams.

They highlighted last year's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, when China were disqualified in the short-track speed skating women's 3,000m relay, a race won by South Korea.

South Korea defeated New Zealand and also beat Thailand to win the Panda Cup mini-tournament, which is in its sixth edition.

A South Korean footballer was also in hot water at the London 2012 Olympics, when he held up a banner about a disputed island chain after his team beat Japan to win the men's bronze medal.