Hummel Chungju v Yongin City, Saturday 21st August 2010, 5pm

After their mid-season break the second tier National League teams were back in action this weekend so I had a few more options when choosing a match to watch. What swung it for Chungju wasn’t the potential quality of the football or the undoubted attractions of the town, but the fact that it’s right next to the Woraksan National Park and I wanted to get a bit of hiking in. I hadn’t been out in the hills for a month and Woraksan had a couple of interesting looking peaks that I fancied having a wander up.

Woraksan, near to Chungju

It all seemed quite a straightforward plan. I could catch a bus from Seoul Central City Station, watch Hummel Chungju take on Yongin City at three o’clock, then get a bus to Deoksu which is the village at the bottom of the hill, stay there overnight before spending the next day hiking and then making the return journey back to Seoul.

The first stage went well. It would have been an easy mistake to have bought a ticket to the much more popular Cheongju or even Cheongdu or Cheongdo. But I didn‘t. By carefully writing the name of the town down on a piece of paper and then handing it over at the ticket counter I managed to buy a 10,900 won ticket for the right destination on the ten o’clock bus. I even managed to pick up an English bus timetable for future reference. Obviously by that I mean a Korean bus timetable written in English; an actual timetable for the buses in England might just be a little less useful these days.

Central City Bus Station, Seoul.

It was a hot morning and as ever in Seoul there were a lot of Korean girls with extremely short skirts. A female western friend mentioned to me that its not unusual for western girls when they first arrive in Korea to look at the length of the skirts that the local girls wear and as they are much shorter than most western women would feel comfortable wearing themselves, to think of the local girls as ’sluts’. Conversely, she said, the Korean girls would never dream of wearing a low cut top and when they encounter western girls showing a bit of cleavage, they too would think ’sluts’.

I can‘t help but smile at the idea of two girls, each comfortable with their own culture, passing each other in the street and each of them thinking the same unsisterly thoughts about the other. As for me, I’m happy to cast an appreciative but discreet glance at  nice legs and nice tits, so the cultural differences work out quite well in that respect.

The hundred and thirty kilometre journey took two hours and I arrived at Chungju at noon. I had a look around,  picking up a couple of maps at the tourist information office and was pleased to see that the stadium wasn’t too far away. It was just a case of following the line of the river and then turning right at the big Buddha statue. I took my time in the heat and arrived at the stadium at one o’clock. There was an event going on next door to it that seemed to be a cross between a summer fayre and a market. There was a stage area where a bloke with a microphone was entertaining the crowds and there were stalls selling everything from seaweed to second hand power tools.

The seaweed stall

There was a Hite beer promotion too, where a van with a large plastic bottle on top was drawing a long queue of people who were being given the chance to win a variety of prizes, mainly beer, by spinning a wheel. I watched for a while and just as I was moving on I was shepherded into the queue by a tourism official. I didn’t really want to win anything that I’d have to carry up the hills the next day and I didnt fancy a drink either as I’d had a heavy week and was keen to have a day off.

A chance to win free beer

The previous night I’d been out with the lads from work and the night before that I’d been to the opening of an art exhibition with Jen. I’d never heard of Lee Hyun Joon whose stuff we’d gone to see, but as they were giving away free beer all night he’s now my favourite artist. If I’d called it a night after the exhibition it would have been fine, but we went on to a Japanese bar where I polished off a large carton of chilled sake too.

These tables were exhibits, but you could sit at them to drink your free beer. Very nice.

It was a bit of a relief therefore when the Hite people ran out of prizes and I was able to make my excuses and move on to have a look at the stadium. It’s quite similar to a lot of the older grounds over here, an oval with a running track and a small main stand that was the only part with a roof. It had a capacity of seventeen thousand and I watched through a gate as a couple of groundsmen watered what looked like a very good pitch.

View from inside the open gate

Unfortunately it turned out that I’d been given the wrong kick off time again, as a banner over one of the entrances was showing a four o’clock start. That wasn’t much of a problem, but I was keen to get out of the heat whilst I waited and so I went for a wander into the park next door and took refuge on a bench under a tree. With over an hour to go until kick off I stretched out on the bench and went to sleep. I was woken by a phone call at a quarter to four. It wasn’t for me, but like a lot of the calls I get it was for Ronald, the bloke who had been allocated my phone number prior to me getting it. It’s normally a bit of a nuisance, but as it served as an alarm call I was quite grateful for once.

I went back to the stadium, expecting a little more activity by now, but it was just as quiet. I hung about until about half past four and with no activity whatsoever thought I’d try and find out what was going on. Perhaps it was a five or a seven o’clock kick off.  I went into the ground via an open gate and walked around the running track towards the half way line. One of the two groundsmen who had been watering the pitch had gone but the remaining one was coiling the hoses. I mimed kicking a football and gestured at the pitch only for him to give me that crossed arm gesture that the bloke in my local takeaway invariably does whenever I turn up at around half past ten and they have no food left.

Never mind, at least I'll be able to walk up those hills.

Despite the internet listings and the banners outside the ground I didn’t take a lot of convincing that the game wasn’t going to happen. A complete lack of people anywhere inside or near the ground, coupled with the absence of nets suggested that something had gone wrong somewhere and I walked off towards the bus station. When I got there I called in at a PC bang and checked the Hummel Chungju website. According to that the game was definitely on but with a five o’clock start. Well, it was quarter past now, so what to do? I decided that I couldn’t just clear off without one last check and so I hopped in a taxi and went back up to the ground. Sadly, but not entirely unexpectedly, it was just as deserted as it had been forty five minutes earlier and so if the game was going ahead at 5pm, it must have been taking place somewhere else. I got another taxi back to the bus station, hoping that I wouldn‘t see a sign anywhere suggesting a kick off time of 7pm. I couldn’t keep turning up at the stadium every hour or so just to watch the grass grow.

I didnt get to sit here.

Still, the football wasn’t the main reason for the trip and I had the hiking on Woraksan to look forward to. I called back into the tourist office to find out where the bus stop for Deokju was. She pointed it out and then wrote the times of the buses down. The next one went at quarter to nine the next morning, getting there after ten. With all that messing around I’d missed the last bus of the day. Just perfect. Or not. That meant I’d have to find somewhere to stay in Chungju instead and then I’d have a pretty limited time the next day to get up and down the hill to fit in with the bus back.

I’d just about had enough arseing about for one weekend by this time and so I got myself a ticket for the next bus to Seoul and headed home. I checked later and the game had gone ahead but at a stadium just outside of town for some reason. This tends to happen fairly often in Korea. For what it’s worth, Hummel Chungju won 3-2.

4 Responses to “Hummel Chungju v Yongin City, Saturday 21st August 2010, 5pm”

  1. Hugo Says:

    I saw NANTA last week when I visited Seoul. It was a great show. I laehgud a lot. I was sitting the front row in the middle. I could see their sweat. They looked powerful.

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