This was the game that confirmed to me that I definitely have caught the groundhopping bug. I know that should have been obvious from some of my earlier trips, but this one really was all about ticking off a ground from my list of places that I hadn’t yet been to.
I’d turned up for a National League fixture at Ansan’s Wa Stadium last year only to find that they were playing next door on the practice pitch. When I’d checked the fixtures this season it seemed that all of their games were scheduled for the smaller venue rather than the main stadium. All except this game against Yongin City.
So, I probably had one chance all season to see a game in the Wa Stadium. I’d seen Ansan play a home game before, I’d been inside the Wa Stadium before, but I hadn’t actually seen Ansan play at the Wa Stadium. That meant I had to go. What makes it even worse is that the 7pm on a Friday kick-off would prevent me from getting there until half–time. But, as I said, I had to go.
I nipped home after work and got changed. As I wouldn’t get there until half-time it didn’t matter if I spent ten minutes getting out of my work clobber, I’d still be there in time to see the start of the second half at around eight o’clock. I got the subway from Yeoksam to Gojan station on Line Four. The journey took about an hour and the train was packed. So much so that I didn’t get a seat until a couple of stops before I was due to get off. The subway isn’t the most pleasant place to be during rush hour and I generally need a good reason to travel during that time. I’m not wholly convinced that forty-five minutes of second tier football between two teams that I don’t care about really qualifies.
You can see the stadium from the subway exit and I was relieved to notice that the floodlights were on. That tended to suggest that there hadn’t been a last minute change of venue.
The Ansan Wa stadium is a bit bigger than most of the stadiums outside of the top division. It has a capacity of thirty-five thousand and a large multi-level Lotte Mart store built into it. I took advantage of it being half-time and nipped to the Lotte Mart basement floor for a box of fried chicken. I shouldn’t have bothered though as it tasted like it had been there since my previous visit.
I walked around the perimeter on the upper level and found a gate open. The concourse was in darkness but I could see the pitch. I went in and it brought me out opposite the main stand. The stadium looked even bigger when inside and the running track that went around the pitch could probably have been a lot more than eight lanes wide if they had wanted. I liked the look of the curved roofs above the stands along the sides of the pitch and whilst both ends behind the goals were uncovered, that’s not really a problem when your attendances rarely reach five hundred.
The game was about to restart as I took my seat and I hadn’t missed any goals in the first half. The visitors, Yongin, were in all blue whilst Ansan or Ansan H to give them their full name were in white shirts and red shorts. They used to be Ansan Hallelujah until this season when in what seems like a crisis of faith they dropped everything bar the ’H’ and removed the horizontal section of the cross from their shirts. Maybe they just got sick of waiting for some Divine Assistance.
There was a much smaller crowd at this game than there had been when I’d seen Ansan play on their practice pitch last year, although even if there had been twice as many fans the atmosphere still wouldn’t have been as good. The practice pitch has a small covered stand that runs the length of one side of the pitch. It was so full last year that my son and I had to stand at the back. A few drummers urging their team on and half a dozen kids playing in the long jump sand pit all added to that occasion.
That’s not to say that the Ansan fans who were there weren’t putting the effort in for this game. There were about a hundred and fifty of them, almost all in the main stand and with a small section making some noise. I suspect that a good few of them were American and brought up on basketball as one of the more popular chants was “Defense, defense”. If there were any Yongin fans around, I didn’t notice them.
The game stayed goalless until fifteen minutes from the end when Yongin’s Kim Myeung Seon played a one-two on the edge of the box, took the return pass and finished well to put the visitors a goal up. Ansan couldn’t respond and the one goal was enough. A bloke to my left applauded pretty enthusiastically at the end, so maybe there was someone there supporting Yongin after all.
I discovered later that Yongin had a player sent off in the first half and I’d watched the second half without realising that it was ten men against eleven. It wasn’t quite a Chris Kamara moment, but it was something that I probably should have spotted.
As far as the stats are concerned, Yongin moved into fourth place in the table. Ansan remained one spot off bottom. I ticked another ground off my list.