I tend to plan the matches that I’m going to quite carefully. It makes sense really, particularly if for example, you want a seat on the train journey there rather than having to stand between the carriages. I hadn’t intended going to any games over this weekend though. There were only two fixtures scheduled, a second division play-off at Goyang on the Saturday and a third division play-off at Gyeongju the following day. I’d definitely have gone to Gyeongju if I could have as it’s somewhere I haven‘t been to yet, but unfortunately I was flying to Oman on the Saturday night so couldn‘t get there. I decided not to bother with Goyang as I’d been to see them play at home a few months ago.
It’s perfect hiking weather though and since I didn’t really have time to get out of Seoul Jen and I decided to walk a bit more of the Bukhansan Dulegil. It’s a trail that follows the outskirts of the Bukhansan National Park. It doesn’t go up any of the really big hills but it does make for a pleasant day out in the countryside. The first phase opened last year and we’d walked all 46km over three days. A new section was added this year with an extra 26km and so we thought we’d walk about half of that and save the remainder for another time.
We took Line 3 as far as Yeonsinnae and then caught the 704 bus. We could have stayed on the subway for a further stop to Gupabal, but by that time the bus would have been more than full. It‘s better to start from Yeonsinnae if you want to be able to get on the bus without fighting. Fortunately we knew where to get off from last year, although if you get off anywhere that other hikers do then you are likely to be somewhere on the dulegil.
Someone has done a bit of work on the trail since we last walked it and the route has now been divided into twenty-one sections. The new part consists of section numbers 13 to 20. Our plan was to walk sections 13 to 16 which is about thirteen kilometres. Section 13 took us through what were mainly farming areas. We saw the locals harvesting their radishes and had a look at a couple of cow sheds. Each farm had a dog or two that had probably never had to bark at anyone until the dulegil was routed past their kennel.
Section 14 involved a few more uphill sections, but still nothing too strenuous. There was a mountain, Sapaesan, close by but we skirted around it without gaining too much height.
We’d made good progress on the first two sections and I was starting to wonder if we might get any further than we’d intended. That was until we took in the view of the Angol Valley in section 15. To the left I could see a football stadium and it occurred to me that it would probably be Goyang’s ground, the team that had a play-off game that afternoon at 3pm. Now it’s one thing deciding not to bother seeing a match when you are looking at the details online. It’s quite another matter when you can see their stadium and it’s within walking distance. It would be a bit of a trek, but since we were almost there, how could we walk past and not go?
If there had been any doubts about abandoning the dulegil for the day, they disappeared when we realised we had already wandered off the trail by 900 metres. So, Goyang v Changwon it was. Or rather it wasn’t. When we arrived at the stadium it turned out not to be Goyang’s ground, but Uijeongbu Stadium. I’d never heard of Uijeongbu. They don’t have a football team, just a stadium to entice hikers down from the mountains.
Goyang couldn’t be far away though, so we hopped in a cab. We might as well have asked the fella to take us to Ayresome Park for all he knew about Goyang. He made a few phone calls though, told us it was a long way and set off. An hour and thirty odd kilometres later we arrived at the correct ground. By now it was almost half time, so we took our time, ate some Mandu and went in for the second half.
Goyang and Changwon had already progressed through one round of the play-offs and the winners of this tie would go on to face Ulsan Mipo in a two-leg final. We’d missed a couple of goals during our taxi ride but fortunately there had been one at each end and so the tie was nicely balanced.
There were probably about four or five hundred people inside the stadium, roughly double what you might expect at a National League game. Goyang had two sections of fans, some of them directly in front of Jen and I and a second lot behind the goal. It’s a shame when you have so few fans and they still divide into separate factions.
The Changwon fans were probably the oddest bunch of supporters that I’ve seen whilst I’ve been over here. They looked as if they were on a pensioners day trip and had turned up here by mistake instead of at some farmer’s market or seaside town. Perhaps they saw the stadium in the distance and mistook it for a temple. They had a couple of cheerleading grannies who were dressed in traditional costume and who spurred the team on with a pair of cymbals and a gong. Even if they all had grandsons playing in the match, it still seemed a bizarre turnout for a team from five hours south.
As far as the action goes, Goyang took the lead with about fifteen minutes remaining when Kim Young Nam managed to bundle the ball home after his initial shot had hit the post. He looked a good player but I wasn’t too impressed with his attitude. He was trying too many flicks and backheels for the situation his team was in.
Changwon hit back two minutes from time when Lee Jung Hwan scored a cracker from outside of the box. That made it two apiece and took the game to extra time.
Unfortunately, I had a flight to catch and so we couldn’t stay to see the outcome. I looked it up later and a Song Geun Soo own goal clinched the game for Goyang who will go on to play Ulsan Mipo in the final. I felt sorry for the busload of Changwon pensioners, but I dare say that every day out is a bonus at that time of life.