Gyeongnam v FC Seoul, Sunday 25th April

This was meant to be one of those ‘two matches in consecutive days’ trips, as I’d noticed that both the teams that play in Changwon were at home in the same weekend. Changwon City of the second tier National League had a game on the Saturday night, followed by top division Gyeongnam on the Sunday afternoon. I’d had a bit of a late night out in Bundang though on the Friday that included ‘Coffee Tequila’s’ at 3am. A ‘Coffee Tequila’ involves licking what appeared to be instant coffee powder off your hand before knocking back the tequila shot in one. It’s not a variation that I’d tried before and I’m still not wholly convinced that either my companion or the barman weren’t taking the piss somewhere along the line.

Whatever. The upshot though was that next morning I didn’t fancy doing anything at all, particularly taking in a match involving a lower division team that I’d just discovered shared a stadium with their top tier neighbours. Part of the attraction for me of going to these games is seeing the different grounds and turning up twice within twenty four hours at the same place just doesn’t have the same appeal.

So, it was Sunday morning by the time I set off for Changwon. I caught the 9am KTX, changing at Miryang and passing the Cheongdo Bullfighting Stadium on the way before arriving at Changwon just after midday. I’d had a bit of a read about Changwon during the week and to be honest, it was probably just as well that I was only there for the afternoon, there didn’t seem a great deal else there that was worth seeing. It seemed to be mainly shopping malls and office blocks. I got a taxi into the city centre and then after some lunch, got another taxi to the ground.

Since there isn’t much to say about Changwon, I’ll take the opportunity to fill you in about Korean toilets. Instead of just having a seat and a lid like ours do, they have a plug in unit that sits on top of the bowl. You can buy them in the electrical stores and supermarkets for a couple of hundred quid. It looks like a seat, but is thicker and has a panel of buttons down the side. When I first moved into my apartment I couldn’t work out how to flush it and, as you do, just pressed all the buttons in the hope that something would happen. Well, it did. What happened was that a jet of water shot out of the bowl into the air and started flooding my bathroom. No matter which other buttons I pressed it wouldn’t stop, not until about thirty seconds had elapsed anyway. I’ve unplugged it now.

At work, the panel at the side of the seat has seventeen different buttons on it. When you sit down the toilet plays a tune and then the seat warms up. I’ve learnt my lesson though and don’t touch any of the buttons. I daren’t in case a wire brush appears and gives my piles a scrub.

The ground looked pretty smart from the outside and was decorated with a lot of banners in the Gyeongnam colours of red and black. It was only built last year and holds 15,500 people, perfect for a club of Gyeongnam’s size. I walked along the front of the stadium and then up behind the goal where I bought a ticket. I’m used to the odd surprise at these ticket offices but today’s was one of the best yet. I handed over the exact money for a 10,000 won ticket and in return got not only my ticket but a 6” square pizza box with a slice of pepperoni pizza in it. I took my snack, declined the offer of a couple of those inflatable sticks to bang together and went into the ground. You could sit anywhere at all, so I decided to sit in the shade. It was a hot day and I’ve been finding recently that my severe new haircut doesn’t give my scalp much protection from the sun. Mind you, I don’t get compared to Meat Loaf any more, so I’m not going to complain about trivial stuff in comparison. Second degree burns seem a lot more preferable to some smirking twat whistling ‘I’d do anything for love’ behind your back.

I bought a couple of cans of cold beer to accompany my pizza and took a seat high in the main stand. The teams came out and lined up before being presented to someone who looked important. We then got a minute of mournful music during which the players stood respectfully with their heads bowed whilst the crowd sat, a little less respectfully, eating their free pizzas and chattering away amongst themselves.

As the game kicked off there were a lot of people outside, perhaps being held up by the need for more pizzas. In fact, twenty five minutes into the match there were still people making their way in. This was probably the closest to capacity that I’d seen any ground in my time here, but I suppose that shouldn’t be much of a surprise, given that Gyeongnam, in second place, were playing the league leaders, Seoul. Gyeongnam were in red shirts and black shorts whilst Seoul, who usually wear AC Milan style red and black stripes were in white shirts with a diagonal red and black stripe and black shorts.

The official attendance was given as fourteen and a half thousand, but I reckon that there were more than a thousand empty seats, maybe two or three thousand in total, but even so, a twelve or thirteen thousand strong crowd in this stadium certainly made for a better atmosphere than the similar sized crowds at the much larger World Cup Stadiums that I’d been to at Seoul, Incheon and Jeonbuk.

The stadium announcer was doing his best to get the crowd going and with the help of the scoreboard displaying the words, soon had the fans chanting along and banging their inflatable sticks together. After any bit of excitement on the pitch, it seemed as if he summarized it afterwards, usually getting a decent cheer out of the crowd. Quite how he managed this after some dismal finishing from the home team I’m not sure, but no matter how bad the miss, the crowd would roar after his comments. Perhaps it was something along the lines of…

“Another terrible miss from that useless apology for a centre forward, but give him a cheer because I hear that he is nice to his Mam and he got his dog from a rescue shelter”

A few minutes before half time Ha Dae-Sung picked up two yellows in quick succession to reduce Seoul to ten men, but they hung on until the break. I took the opportunity to have a walk around to the other side of the ground and picking up another beer, sat behind the goal for a while. There was an enormous football obscuring the view of anyone unfortunate to be sat behind the corner flag. That would have been interesting had it been a sellout.

Worse than Goodison Park

The Gyeongnam fans were making a pretty good effort with flags, drums and almost non-stop singing. The best bit though was the close up view of their goalie, Kim Yong-Dae. With his shaggy ginger hair he looked like a cartoon lion. He seemed very popular with the small children, who probably thought he was a mascot. I was given some dried squid to eat by a gang of old biddies. This seems to happen a lot and when I moved later to the other end of the ground I got given some Pringles. I must look like I need feeding up.

Kim Yong Dae

Five minutes before the end Gyeongnam’s Ghanaian striker Alex Asamoah was subbed. Nothing unusual about that normally, but in his case he had only come on twenty minutes earlier. There was a lot of booing but I couldn’t tell if it was aimed at the player or the decision. Whatever the thinking behind it was, it had a positive effect and the place went wild as Gyeongnam got an injury time winner. A second Seoul player, Kim Jin-Kyu, was sent off afterwards after picking up two yellows for dissent. It looked as if the second was for whatever he was muttering to himself as  he walked away from the referee. The final whistle had gone even before he was back in the dressing room and I headed off past the piles of empty pizza boxes to get a taxi back to the station.

Goooaaalllll

Meanwhile a last minute goal from Lee Dong Gook wasn’t sufficient to prevent Jeonbuk suffering their first defeat of the season at home to Ulsan Horang-i. That dropped them down to sixth place, five points behind new leaders Gyeongnam who had leap frogged over Seoul with that injury time goal.

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