This was meant to be one of those days where I managed to see two matches, but it turned out to be just one of those days.
I’d watched Jeonbuk’s last two league games, away at Daejeon and Gangwon, and whilst I’m enjoying following their season I really want to get around as many different places as possible. I’d already been to their home town of Jeonju, so I hadn’t really considered going to see them for a third week running. Not until I saw that the K3 team Jeonju EM were at home to Seoul Martyrs in the afternoon.. That meant that I could go along to Jeonju for the third division game, see a new ground and then treat a trip to the World Cup Stadium for the Jeonbuk Motors fixture in the evening as a bit of a bonus. Does that need for justification sound a bit geeky? It does to me too, but it’s the way my mind works these days.
After the success of the bus trip to Gangwon last week, I opted to travel by road again and made my way down to the Express Bus Terminal at about ten o’clock. It was a bit of an arse on to be honest, involving queueing for a ticket in a hot building only to be told that the Jeonju buses went from a different terminal, which was described to me as `outside’. Well I went outside and I couldn’t see it. It turns out that the buses for Jeonju depart from the Central City terminal which is cunningly concealed inside a shopping arcade across the road.
There was a ticket window helpfully marked `Jeonju’, but somewhat less helpfully it was shut. I then joined a queue for an automated ticket machine, only to get to the front and discover that it was solely for collecting pre-booked tickets. After asking for a bit of help at the information desk I managed to buy a ticket to Jeonju for 17,000 won. Whilst the buses seemed to depart every five or ten minutes, it must have been a popular destination as the first seat I could get was in thirty five minutes time on the 11.05am bus. This was scheduled to get me into Jeonju for 1.55pm, just over an hour befor kick off in the first game.
This is where you buy your bus ticket.
The bus was described as luxury and I was pretty impressed. It had a two and one seating configuration and I got a single, wide, reclining seat with plenty of leg room. What wasn’t quite so impressive was the time it took to get to Jeonju. At 1.40pm we pulled off the motorway, not because we had arrived, but because we were making a stop at the services.
One of these was my bus.
We finally arrived at Jeonju just after half past three, over an hour and a half late and with no prospect of me getting to the Jeonju EM game until into the second half. I decided to give it a miss. Looking on the bright side it would give me an opportunity to justify to myself a further visit to Jeonju.
I managed to get a couple of English maps of the area from a very surly girl in the tourist information office who clearly resented having to give them away and then went to check into a hotel near to the bus station. If I tell you that I had a choice of paying 15,000 won for a room for an hour or 35,000 won for the night, that should give you an idea of the sort of hotel it was.
The manager showed me to the room and as I’ve learnt to do here I removed my shoes before entering. There were a pair of flip flops at the door and I put them on. He quickly told me to take them off again, so I did and just walked around in my bare feet. It was only as he left and put the flip flops on himself that I realised that I’d stepped into the footwear that he had removed himself as we’d gone into the room.
The room was clean, although eccentrically decorated and complete with a big flatscreen tv, air conditioning, a fan, fridge and what looked like two judo suits hanging by the window. Ideal for those couples with a wrestling fetish, I imagine. It also had a condom machine on the wall, perhaps for guests who are too shy to buy their condoms in public. For those of you who believe in attention to detail, it was a thousand won for a pack of two, one ribbed, one plain.
I suppose the wallpaper is ok if you are only staying for an hour.
It was about time to get something to eat before the match and as Jeonju is famous for its bibimbap, thats what I got. Its basically a bowl of boiled rice that you mix up with a few other vegetables, mushrooms, beansprouts, that sort of thing, a bit of red pepper paste and a fried egg. A few side dishes came with it, kimchi, green beans in garlic, noisettes of spam and some gherkins. Not bad for six thousand won.
Full up, I stopped at a 7-Eleven, picked up a couple of cans of Asahi and got into a taxi. The driver didnt understand `World Cup Stadium’, so I showed him a photo of it on the map that I’d earlier managed to prise from the grip of the surly tourist information girl. `Ah’ he said, `World-uh Cup Stadium’. I obviously need to work on my pronounciation.
Note the greeter, below a slightly oversized banner of Lee Dong Gook.
It was fairly quiet outside the ground as I drank my cans, although there was over an hour to go to kick-off and I got a ticket for the East Stand, opposite the tunnel, for 10,000 won. I could have sat behind the goal like last time I was here for less, but I fancied a change. It was as well I had eaten, as apart from crisps and pot noodles, just about the only thing you could get were squid.
Six sick squid for six quid. Or something like that.
They are dried and you have to warm them up yourself on a little camping stove.
Someone warming his squid.
I got a couple of beers and went into the stand to watch the highlights of previous matches on the big screens before the teams were announced. Lee Dong Gook was starting but the Croatian lad who had come on as a sub last week and made such an impact was back on the bench.
Jeonbuk, wearing green shirts and black shorts to Busan’s white shirts and red shorts, took the lead after five minutes, with their centre half, Sim Woo Yeon, scoring from a header after a free kick into the box. Jeonbuk were playing with just Lee Dong Gook up front of a midfield five, but he seemed to have a bit more support than he had received the previous week at Gangwon.
Gooaaal, 1-0 Jeonbuk.
Eighteen minutes into the game and that was it for the Lion King. Wengeresquely, I didn’t see the challenge, but the linesman flagged and advised the ref that Lee Dong Gook had elbowed a Busan defender in the chops. He disputed the red card, as you would, but was soon back in the dressing room. Brilliant, I travel for four and a half hours to get here and he lasts less than twenty minutes. The Busan defender was temporarily removed to have his head re-assembled on one of those little golf cart stretcher things.
Don't mess with the Lion King.
Seeing someone driving on the pitch reminded me of a Sunday League game I played in that also featured a sending off. Back then, the lad had also struggled to accept the decision and rather than simply getting changed, he returned in fury in his car, driving across the pitch and aiming for the bloke he had tangled with, the ref and anyone else that caught his eye. I was safely down the other end in goal, and as I was as likely to catch his eye as I was any well placed shots, I could watch with a certain detached amusement. Disappointingly, Lee Dong Gook took his sending off with slightly better grace so we were spared the wheel spins and the tyre marks.
Jeonbuk reorganised into a sort of strikerless 4-1-4-0 formation that just invited the pressure from Busan and a few minutes before the break they equalised. After a quick half time beer, I was feeling a bit peckish so I waivered and got a squid, with another couple of beers for the second half. I missed the restart as I gave the mollusc a quick blast on the camping stove. It was a fine balance between warming it up and setting it on fire, a balance that I wasn’t entirely successful with.
Just a little bit on fire.
I’m not sure if heating it was intended to soften it a bit, but it didn’t and it was like eating shoes. I discovered that the best technique was to leave a piece in my mouth for a while to soften it before chewing. It did take my most of the second half to work my way through it though.
The game looked to be heading towards a draw until in injury time Jeonbuk sub Kang Seung Jo nipped in with a goal. The Jeonbuk fans must be starting to expect injury time winners these days. After the final whistle I struggled to get a taxi so hung around for a bit outside the ground and had a couple more beers at a food stall whilst chatting to some Jeonbuk fans.
They were understandably pleased with the victory that took them up to second place in the table, two points behind new leaders Seoul who had beaten that morning’s front runner Jeju United. Next week Seoul visit Jeonbuk in a game that could see Jeonbuk move into the top spot. I expect Lee Dong Gook will be suspended for impersonating Dean Ashton and if I go I’ll be taking the train.