The South Korean soccer player who inflamed a diplomatic row with Japan by waving a political flag at the London Olympics has earned respect from unexpected quarters - Japan's Keisuke Honda.
The 26-year-old Japan playmaker told local media on Thursday he might have done the same thing as South Korea's Park Jong-woo under the same circumstances.
Park held up a sign referring to a territorial dispute between the countries while celebrating a 2-0 win over their fierce rivals in last month's Olympic bronze medal match.
"I'm fiercely patriotic," Honda told Japan's Nikkan Sports newspaper before Japan's friendly with the United Arab Emirates.
"The Korean player at the Olympics - when I looked at it objectively, I thought 'he loves South Korea'.
"I love Japan. Perhaps if I was in the same situation I would have done the same thing. You don't know until you are in that situation.
"From the viewpoint of winning or losing, Japanese don't have that feeling of love towards their country South Koreans do."
Park's placard - which read "Dokdo is our territory" - triggered further controversy following a surprise visit by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to the islands, known in Japan as Takeshima.
Soccer's world ruling body FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings against Park, and he was banned from the Olympic medal ceremony because of the stunt.
The disputed islands, controlled by South Korea but also claimed by Japan, lie equidistant from the two countries and are believed to contain frozen natural gas deposits potentially worth billions of dollars.
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