Korean World Cup hero recalls racist slurs in Italy
South Korea's retired 2002 World Cup hero Ahn Jung-Hwan says he was cold-shouldered and subjected to racist slurs from Marco Materazzi during his troubled time with Serie A side AC Perugia.
In an interview on a South Korean television talk show, Ahn, 36, alleged that Perugia's then skipper Materazzi had been particularly intimidating.
"He barged into the locker room one day and barked at me in front of everyone, saying that I reeked of garlic," Ahn said.
"I didn't understand what he was saying but the translator, who was also a Korean, blushed and, at first, was too embarrassed to translate the remarks," he added.
Ahn's wife, a former Miss Korea beauty queen, told the same talk show that her husband was so intimidated that he stopped eating garlic-heavy Korean food.
Materazzi is no stranger to controversy.
Notoriously, taunting by the defender provoked a head-butt from French star Zinedine Zidane on him during the 2006 World Cup final, which resulted in a red card for Zidane before Italy went on to lift the title.
Ahn joined AC Perugia in 2000, but the move was not a happy one and ended in controversy.
After Ahn scored the golden goal against Italy that put South Korea through to the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup, Perugia owner Luciano Gaucci cancelled his contract.
Gaucci was quoted as saying he had "no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football".
Ahn said he had always been treated as "an outcast" by other players in the Italian club side.
"They seldom passed the ball to me in front of goal, even if they had no way for themselves to score," he said.
After leaving Italy, Ahn went on to play in Japan, France, Germany, South Korea and China. He retired in January last year.
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