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Football coming home thanks to South Korean collector

Written by: Staff
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SEOUL, Aug 9 (Reuters) Lee Jae-hyung spent four years hunting down a piece of South Korea's sporting history and the search for a famous football has finally paid off.

Lee is set to bring home the ball used in South Korea's dramatic penalty shootout win over Spain in the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals after tracking it down in Rahab near Cairo, local media reported today.

Egyptian Gamal Ghandour, who refereed the controversial match, had kept the ball and was reluctant to part with it, saying it had become a prized family possession.

''The ball will be an heirloom of your family to be handed down if you keep it,'' the report quoted Lee as telling Ghandour. ''But it will be cherished permanently as a treasure of the whole country if it is in Korea.'' Ghandour relented and gave the ball to Lee who plans to donate it to the Korea Football Association and have it put on permanent display.

Kim Gawn-hyuck of South Korean football magazine Best Eleven confirmed that Lee had secured the ball and was planning to return to Seoul on Friday.

''Each and every victory is important for South Korean football as we don't have that many yet,'' Kim said.

''This ball was the one used when we beat Spain. That's why we were trying to get it back.'' South Korea reached the World Cup semi-finals four years ago before losing 1-0 to Germany. Their victory over Spain was highly controversial because Ghandour disallowed two ''goals'' by the Spaniards.

REUTERS AY RS1346

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