July 5, 2023 will be remembered as a special day in Korean soccer history. This is because the name Casey Eugene Fair was included in the list of 23 Korean players participating in the 2023 FIFA Australia-New Zealand Women’s World Cup. Coach Colin Bell, who leads the women’s national soccer team, chose Pair, who was born in 2007, as a member of the World Cup strike team.
Born to a Korean mother and an American father, she has dual Korean and American citizenship. Her father met her mother while working as an English teacher in Korea, and after moving to New Jersey, USA, her pair were born. The pair, who started her soccer at the age of six, grew her skills enough to compete with her boys. She is evaluated as having good physical condition of 178 cm and 68 kg, fast feet and high-level technique.
The pair’s team is the Players Development Academy (PDA), a prestigious youth team in American soccer. Fair drew attention as a top-notch prospect in the United States, the world’s strongest women’s soccer team. Around the same time, Korean football also paid attention to fair. Last year, the Korea Football Association (KFA), which confirmed the existence of a promising Korean player, invited the pair to participate in training for the under-15 national team.
Her pair chose to play for her national team in her mother’s country. In April, she was a member of the under-16 national team and competed in the 2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women’s Under-17 Asian Cup qualifiers, where she scored five goals in two matches. With her adult-level strength and speed overwhelming her age group, coach Bell sang the pair during final call-up training to prepare for the World Cup. In the strong training and practice matches that lasted for nearly a month, I did my part even among her older sisters, who are more than 10 years older. Coach Bell boldly selected Pair for the final roster for the World Cup.
Fair, who turned 16 on June 29, became the youngest player to participate in the World Cup in both men’s and women’s soccer in Korea. In 2003, at the age of 16 years and 9 months, she broke Park Eun-sun’s record for participating in the World Cup. Park Eun-sun, who is the second senior on her team to participate in this tournament, leads her offense with a pair who are 20 years older than her. In the Women’s World Cup, which opened on July 20, if the pair participate in the first and second rounds of the group stage, they will set the record for the youngest participation in the World Cup in the world women’s soccer world.
There is no problem for the pair, who have multiple nationalities, to wear the Taegeuk mark on the World Cup stage. There is no reason for disqualification under FIFA rules because he did not play in an A match for another country’s national team. Rather, prejudice in Korea may have been a barrier to entry into the national team. The deep-rooted perception of Korean society as a homogeneous nation has been a hurdle for players born and raised in multicultural families.
Fair is not the first multicultural family World Cup national team in Korean soccer history. There is a precedent in men’s soccer. Jang Dae-il, born to a British father and a Korean mother, participated in the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. However, the fact that Jang Dae-il came from a multicultural family was revealed after a while. Kim Dong-gwang, a representative Korean basketball star in the 1970s who had a US military father, is a similar case. There was a negative prejudice in society’s perception of children born between foreigners and Koreans, and in most cases, they tried to hide it somehow in the process of growing up.
In sports, the ‘Taegeuk mark’ has maintained pure blood or unity for a long time. Just 10 years ago, the national men’s soccer team pushed for the naturalization of foreign players, but faced strong opposition. Faced with a crisis of elimination during the final qualifying process for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, the use of foreign players active in the K-League, such as Eninho and Radoncic, was discussed. But public opposition was fierce. The Korea Sports Council also took advantage of such an atmosphere and did not approve the request of the Korea Football Association.
It is not unique to Korea. In France, Germany, and Italy, there is also a political debate over the selection of Arab immigrants and African players for the national team. Far-right French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen once created a stir when she described the national soccer team, which was composed mainly of immigrants and refugees, as “a racial dump that even the French national anthem couldn’t properly sing.” Zinedine Zidane, a second-generation Algerian immigrant and “soccer president,” strongly protested, saying, “If Le Pen wins the general election, I will be willing to retire from the national team.” Le Pen is defeated. This is because the support that Zidane’s dribbling and passing is more effective than any unified policy has arisen from all walks of life. Even Italy, which has a strong sense of racism, is in an atmosphere where adoptees and refugee-born black national team members are appearing recently.
A turning point that changes the way the Korean sports world thinks
In the 21st century, Korea is undergoing major social structural changes. According to the National Statistical Office’s population and housing census, the number of multicultural households in Korea has already exceeded 1 million in 2019. In the past three years, an additional 100,000 have increased. That’s close to 3% of the total population. Naturally, the time has come for children from multicultural and refugee families to emerge as central members of society.
Recently, changes are detected in the sports field. Athletes who did not grow up in Korean society, but are of Korean descent and culturally influenced by their parents, want the Taegeuk mark, and each sport is responding to it. Tammy Hyeonsu Edman, who played in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) last March, was born to a Korean mother who immigrated to Korea and an American father who is a college baseball coach. Playing as a starting infielder for the St. Louis Cardinals in the major leagues, he became a member of the Korean national baseball team through the WBC participation qualification rule, which stipulates that he can represent not only his current nationality but also his parental country.
If you are a player who grew up in Korean society, an atmosphere of embracing them was formed even if their appearance or skin color was heterogeneous. Biwesa Daniel Kashima, whose parents were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was born and grew up in Ansan, Gyeonggi-do. Having chosen Korean nationality in 2018, he is attracting attention as a new hopeful in Korean short-distance track and field. A similar case continues in football. Dennis Osei, who was born to parents who immigrated from Ghana, Punggi Samuel, whose parents are refugees from Angola, and Bato Samuel, who is from Côte d’Ivoire and is recognized as a top-class prospect for Osango (FC Seoul Youth Team).
For the success of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, Korea has specially naturalized 19 foreign athletes, focusing on weak sports. However, there was a limit in that the opening of the door focused only on the player’s skills. This is because most of the naturalized athletes at the time returned to their home countries after the Olympics. Rather, there is a high voice that policies and management for players with Korean culture and emotions are important even though they have multiple nationalities, were born in Korea or grew up in Korea for a long time. It is necessary to support the participation of players from multicultural families through a system similar to the ‘homegrown’ familiar in Europe (a system that treats players of different nationalities but who have grown for more than 3 years the same as their own country).메이저놀이터
Fair is also accustomed to Korean culture through her mother, but it is difficult to speak Korean. If the criteria for wearing the Taegeuk mark were limited to appearance, language, and ability to sing the national anthem, a top-class prospect who loves Korea would have headed for the U.S. national team. Fair’s participation in the Women’s World Cup will be a turning point that will change the thinking of Korean soccer and, by extension, the Korean sports world. At the same time, it can be a role model for young people who want to overcome prejudice against multicultural families through sports.