South Korea's World Cup team tried to confuse Sweden's spies by swapping jerseys so their opponent couldn't tell them apart

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
  • Spy for Sweden’s World Cup team was caught watching South Korea train.
  • South Korea players responded by swapping their jerseys so it would be harder to tell them apart.
  • Taeguk Warriors coach Shin Tae-yong said “it is very difficult for Westerners to distinguish between Asians”.
  • Sweden apologised, but South Korea said it was “perfectly natural” for teams to gather information.

South Korea’s World Cup team responded to spying by the Swedish team by swapping their jerseys so that Sweden couldn’t tell them apart.

Taeguk Warriors coach Shin Tae-yong told reporters Sunday that his team swapped around their numbers after a member of Sweden’s coaching staff was caught trying to spy on their closed training session in Austria earlier this month.

“We switched them around because we didn’t want to show our opponents everything and to try and confuse them,” said Shin.

“They might know a few of our players but it is very difficult for Westerners to distinguish between Asians,” he added.

The Swedish spy first tried to gain intel on the South Koreans by approaching the team’s training base and posing as a tourist, although his plan was quickly foiled. He later convinced a local couple who lived near the camp to let him use their house and set up a high performance telescope and video camera.

“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,” Lars Jacobsson, the Swedish spy, said according to Reuters.

Sweden’s coach Janne Andersson has apologised, saying that Sweden analyses every opponent before a match, but they may have crossed a line.

“It’s very important that we show respect for opponents, always and in every way. If it has been perceived in another way, we apologise,” he said.

Still, South Korea seemed unfazed by the incident.

“All coaches probably feel their opponents are always spying on them,” Shin said. “I think it’s perfectly natural that we all try to get as much information on each other as we can.”

In recent matches between Bolivia and Senegal, only two Korean players wore their usual numbers, Shin added.

South Korea and Sweden face off on Monday at 3pm local time.

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