Whenever you bring together dozens of different countries from around the globe, there’s gonna be some cross-cultural confusion.
And if you’re South Korean coach Shin Tae-yong, you figure out how to work that to your advantage.
In a press conference Sunday, Shin explained the unusual tactic he’d employed against spies from the Swedish team: He’d had his team members swap jersey numbers for the warmup games, in hopes that scouts would confuse the players for one another.
“It’s very difficult for Westeners to distinguish between Asians, and that’s why we did that,” Shin explained, as quoted by ESPN.
Although Shin’s specific plan is unique, it’s one in a long string of reports of subterfuge between South Korea and Sweden in the lead-up to their World Cup match.
Swedish coach Janne Andersson apologized to the South Korean team Sunday for an incident in which a Swedish scout was caught looking in on a South Korean practice in Austria.
According to Andersson, the scout had not realized it was a closed session. “He watched from more of a distance as a result,” said Andersson.
The scout also observed his South Korean rivals by borrowing a local house with a view of the training facility.
“It took a long car journey up the mountains to reach the house, but it was a perfect spot to observe the Korean team’s training,” said Lars Jacobsson, a member of the Swedish coaching staff.
Sweden, for their part, has complained that their own base was too easy to spy on.
Shin seems to be keeping all this drama in perspective, however.
“I think all coaches probably feel that way, that the other team is spying on them,” he said. “We have to analyze the other team and we do what we can to win the match, so I think it’s perfectly natural for us to try to understand the other team.”
We’ll see if Shin’s inventive ploy pays off when South Korea faces Sweden in Russia on Monday.