JEJU, South Korea (AP) - Seung Gong, a gray-robed Buddhist monk, says he has a key to winning soccer's World Cup.

"Players must abandon their greed for goals," says the monk, sitting cross-legged behind his tea tray.

"Greed makes your feet stiff. You just kick the ball to the goal mouth as hard as possible, not thinking about scoring. You get it?"

Whether you get it or not, Seung Gong loves to talk about soccer - when he's not preaching at the sprawling Yakchunsa, the biggest Buddhist temple on this resort island, a training ground for England's World Cup squad this week.

His love of the sport led him to play regularly with fellow monks, their robes flapping, their shaved heads glinting under the island's harsh sun.

Giant pillars of his temple's 30-meter (100-foot)-high main shrine are draped with a banner: "We wish victory for the South Korean World Cup squad."

"After becoming the chief monk of this temple, I don't get as much free time for soccer," Seung Gong says. "That's bad because I am gaining weight."

He doesn't hesitate to abandon his usual solemnity and demonstrate heading and dribbling skills on the temple's manicured lawn - while bemused worshippers watch the holy man toying with the ball. Lately he has become something of a tourist attraction himself.

Tuesday was a big night for the heavyset monk in his mid-40s. After "some lobbying" with a police friend, he got a free ticket to watch South Korea play to a 1-1 draw against England in a warmup match in the island's World Cup stadium, a 10-minute ride from his temple.

"I shouted, 'Korea! Korea!"' he said. "But I must admit that Michael Owen's goal was a beauty."

Though he is a maverick as a Buddhist monk, Seung Gong's enthusiasm reflects the rising World Cup zeal in co-host South Korea.

Amid other signs, scantily clad cheerleaders leap and dance in Seoul streets, promoting songs for the Korean team.

Korean Buddhist monks are usually a meditative lot, sitting cross-legged for hours daily in a grueling spiritual quest. But Korean Buddhism also has a tradition of physical training, such as the martial art of taekwondo, to fight beasts in deep mountains, stage guerrilla battles against foreign invaders and stay fit for Spartan temple life.

For Seung Gong, Buddhism and soccer mesh perfectly.

"To sit cross-legged so long, you must have a strong set of legs," he says. "So soccer is very good for monks."

"Buddhism and soccer both call for decisiveness and ferocity," he preaches. "Good monks pursue enlightenment like an eagle swooping down, like a tiger pouncing on its prey, like a good soccer player chasing the ball."

Seung Gong's temple houses 1.08 million gold-painted miniature Buddha statues, symbolizing 108 human weaknesses, such as anger and stupidity, which Buddhists aspire to overcome.

His office is packed with porcelain tea cups, traditional zithers, calligraphy and a hi-fi audio set on which he often plays Andrea Bocelli.

When it comes to the World Cup, Seung Gong, a monk of 20 years, becomes very secular.

"I wonder why worshippers don't donate tickets so that monks like me can go and watch the games in the stadiums,'' he says with a guffaw.

Buddhism, which claims 10 million worshippers in this country of 47 million people, has been an eager sponsor of the May 31-June 30 tournament co-hosted by South Korea and Japan. The headquarters of Chogye, the biggest Buddhist denomination, to which Seung Gong belongs, is decorated with 2002 soccer ball-shaped lanterns.

"The World Cup is a good chance to advertise Korean Buddhism to the world," says Ja Won, a monk who runs a "temple stay" program for World Cup tourists at Yakchunsa.

"I got up at 4 a.m.," said Melissa Beukeboom from Ontario, Canada. "It's amazing how much you can achieve when you get up so early.... We played soccer with the monk today."

Seung Gong says he has been a soccer fan since childhood. He once played on a monks' squad at a temple in mainland Korea, playing "sweeper and everything else at the same time."

"In 1996, we beat a squad of entertainers 8-6," he says. "We gave those six goals in the first half because old monks insisted on playing."

Seung Gong admires England midfielder David Beckham, now on the mend from a foot injury. "Beckham is a soccer artist. England could do well if they get him fit soon enough," he says. But the monk's all-time favorite is Roberto Baggio, former star of Italy.

"It's very bad for Italy not to include him in its squad. Yes, he is old, but he is Buddhist. Didn't Italy calculate how much Buddhist cheering they would get in Korea and Japan if they had Baggio?"

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