When a World Cup goal made a South Korean footballer persona non grata at an Italian club

On this week's World Is A Ball, Team 33's Raf Diallo looks back at a bizarre episode from the 2002 World Cup

Ahn Jung Hwan, South Korea, Italy,

Korea's Hwan Jung Ahn scores the winning goal to put them in the Quarter Final (Picture by: Tony Marshall / EMPICS Sport)

Did South Korea's run to the 2002 World Cup semi-final on home soil leave a few issues to frown upon?

Yes, undoubtedly if you look at the farcical refereeing decisions which took them there.

The run to the last-four had seen them beat Spain in the quarter-finals with the Spanish - who had knocked out Ireland on penalties days previously - having some legitimate goals ruled out before their own penalty shootout loss.

One part that really jumps out to me was when Joaquin crossed the ball in for Fernando Morientes to head in, only to see it ruled out because the officials wrongly deemed that the ball had gone over the byline before the ball had been played in.

But even in the match before that, Italy felt they were robbed of a place in the last-8 after a 2-1 extra-time defeat to the Koreans, with then-Serie A based striker Ahn Jung Hwan supplying the coup de grace.

Francesco Totti had been red carded for a dive which was anything and the Giovanni Trapattoni's Azzurri also had a goal ruled out.

But as Italy-based football commentator Richard Whittle told Team 33 ahead of the last World Cup, the Italians had themselves to blame to a degree with plenty of missed chances among the things that cost them in the game itself apart from refereeing decisions. 

Whatever grievances Italy had, one element of the reaction back home was totally unjustified.

On this week's Team 33, former Perugia football club owner Luciano Gaucci was one of the charcaters that showed up as football writer Greg Lea told us the story of how Muammar Gaddafi's third son ended up playing for that club and others in Serie A about a decade ago.

In the midst of Italian-Libyan geopolitics, former Mr Bunga-Bunga and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had persuaded Gaucci to sign Gaddafi Jr despite the player's lack of talent.

That had no benefit to the club and nor did what he tried to inflict on Ahn Jung Hwan, the man who had knocked Italy out of the 2002 World Cup with the extra-time header.

Ahn had been on the books at Perugia on loan since the 2000-01 season, but an incensed Gaucci trespassed over all sense of common decency by cancelling his contract.

The reason was as petty as it comes, ignoring the fact that Ahn had nothing to do with questionable refereeing decisions and had every right to score against Italy because he was playing for another country - his own one!

Korea's Jung Hwan Ahn and Italy's Paolo Maldini Picture by: Tony Marshall / EMPICS Sport

"That gentleman will never set foot in Perugia again," Gaucci had said, adding that, "He was a phenomenon only when he played against Italy. I am a nationalist and I regard such behaviour not only as an affront to Italian pride but also an offence to a country which two years ago opened its doors to him."

In Ahn's defence, then South Korea boss and current Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink spoke with a bit of common sense after Gaucci's actions which had been roundly condemned internationally. He reasoned, "Football is an increasingly international sport. Many players are playing in different countries. If for example Frank Leboeuf or Marcel Desailly were playing against England, do you think somebody could tell them to take it easy and not play well. You might as well just give up sports."

Perugia manager Serse Cosmi, who had been wisely reluctant to give Gaddafi game-time did not share Guacci's view on Ahn and suggested that he did not share the owner's childish view, saying: "I consider him a player with enormous potential. I wouldn't have any objection at all if the club decided to extend his contract for next season."

In the end, Ahn kept his dignity and sought a move elsewhere in Europe, although it was Japanese side Shimizu S-Pulse who signed him, before he returned to Europe a few years later. 

As for Gaucci, Perugia fell into bankruptcy, while he was also the subject of an investigation which led him to go into hiding in the Dominican Republic until his return to Italy in 2009.

You can read more from Raf's The World Is A Ball series every Wednesday on Newstalk.com. To find past articles, head to the Team 33 show page.

You can listen to Greg Lea on Gaddafi's Serie A-playing son on the podcast player below or also on iTunes.