FC Seoul v Busan I’Park, Sunday 31st October 2010, 2pm

It’s getting towards the end of the season, with only a week or so remaining in the battle for the play-off positions. I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this game normally as I’ve seen Seoul play at home a couple of times already and I’ve also been to their Sangam stadium to watch the national team twice. However, I’ve got a bit of a vested interest these days in how Seoul get on. The battle to finish top of the league and earn direct entry and home advantage in the play-off final on the 5th of December is a two horse race between Seoul and Jeju United. I’ve already got flights to Jeju booked for that weekend and the last thing I want to happen is for Seoul to pip them to the top spot and for me to miss the final game of the season because it’s taking place in Seoul whilst I’m in Jeju.

With that in mind, Jen and I went along to cheer on their opponents, Busan, in the hope that Seoul would drop some points. We’d travelled back from Cheonan that morning where we’d been to a Halloween party the night before at one of the universities there. Cheonan is about eighty kilometres south of Seoul and whilst it’s actually possibly to get there on one of the far-reaching subway lines, we went on the bus instead. It goes direct rather than stopping at each of the thirty odd subway stations between my apartment and Cheonan and so even with the heavy traffic it was still a little quicker.

I forgot to take any photos in Cheonan, so here's one I found on the internet.

We found a hotel close to the bus terminal in Cheonan and checked in. Mind you ’checking in’ makes it sound a lot more involved than it really is. You ask the price of a room for the night or the hour, depending upon your plans. Someone tells you the price though a small hole in a window and you then exchange cash for a key. No credit card swipe, no forms to fill in, they don’t even ask what your name is. You usually get given a little pack with the key that contains a toothbrush, a condom and a razor. The room was fifty thousand won (twenty eight quid), which seemed reasonable enough to us but was a bit too expensive for the four American lads that we spoke to outside. They told us that they had been tipped off that rooms were available in Cheonan for twenty thousand won. As all four were probably sleeping in the same room that would work out at less than three quid a head. Good value if you can find it, although deciding which one would have a shave, which one would clean his teeth and how the other two would make use of the condom could no doubt cause a few arguments amongst them.

As with the previous weekend, our room was unremarkable by Korean standards, the only feature of note being a mirror that filled the entire wall that the bed was positioned against. This gave me a bit of a shock the following morning when I awoke to the sight of a middle aged bloke with a shaven head staring straight back at me from about a foot away. For a brief moment I wondered just how drunk I’d got at the party the night before.

The answer, incidentally, is not very. I’d had a few cans and a bottle of wine but slowed the pace down with a couple of  Cuban cigars. I’d taken the cigars to assist with lighting the roman candles but in the end they weren’t needed due to the Firework Code being different over here. Or maybe it’s not applicable to the Chinese fireworks that Jen had bought. Perhaps it’s a translation issue. It may well be that if you type ’Use a taper and light fireworks one at a time at arm’s length then stand well back’ into something like Babelfish it comes out as ’Dip the end of the firework in the fire as if it’s a marshmallow and then wave it around a bit before pointing it vaguely skywards or in the direction of a security guard who has wandered over to see how imminently the campus is likely to be burnt down’.

This is how you do it over here.

The party had quite an American feel to it. Mainly, I suspect,  because the people there apart from me were all Americans. But that aside, the lanterns were made from pumpkins rather than turnips and we had something called Smores to eat. For those of you from the right side of the Atlantic, a Smore is made by heating a marshmallow in the fire (as if it were a firework), either on the end of a toasting fork or on a straightened wire coat hanger, depending on the poshness of the party you are at. The marshmallow is then eaten between two biscuits with a bit of chocolate added to it. We cheated apparently, by using biscuits already coated in chocolate.

I'm not sure if that's a firework being lit or a marshmallow being toasted.

If I remember rightly, I’m sure the Firework Code mentions dogs as well, possibly something about not letting them hold sparklers if they are under five years of age, I think. We didn’t have any sparklers unfortunately, but there were a couple of dogs there, both of which seemed to quite enjoy the whole occasion. Although the availability of sausages and chocolate biscuits might have had more to do with that than the roman candles. One of the dogs was a cross between a beagle and a pomeranian. Normally if anyone has a beagle, or even half a beagle, then that will set me off reminiscing about the one I had as a kid. Coincidentally, it had already happened that morning, as when taking a break from cycling along the Han River, I got talking to a Korean bloke who was walking a dog that he described as ’half beagle and half hush puppy’.

I didn't get a photo of the beagle/hush puppy cross, so here's a picture of the Han River instead.

It turns out that his dog used to do exactly the same things that mine did, legging it at every opportunity and supplementing a fairly bland diet with stuff that had a bit of a kick to it. I’m mainly thinking of electrical wires and rose bushes here. We spent a pleasant ten minutes chatting before I got back on my bike and left him to his dog walking. I feel as if I’m digressing more than normal here, but I’m just going to take it a little further before I bring it back in the direction of the football game.  I haven’t lost sight of it. Honest. On another of my brief bike ride pauses that morning I’d watched a few minutes of a baseball game alongside the river. It seems an ideal sport for unfit old blokes, most of whom were smoking whilst waiting their turn to bat or to be called up as a relief pitcher. Now that I find that my cigars aren’t necessary for lighting fireworks any more I might just have to take up playing baseball instead.

Saturday morning baseball next to the Han.

Right, back to the Halloween party. Or more specifically to the half beagle, half pomeranian dog that wasn’t allowed sparklers at the Halloween party. I’ve got a bit of reminiscing about the non-beagle side of his breeding too, although it’s reminiscing about someone reminiscing rather than a direct memory of my own. In fact, as the pomeranian in question belonged to my Grandad, it might actually be me reminiscing about my Mam reminiscing about what my Grandad had told her. I’m going to google ’reminiscing’ now to see if I’ve mentioned it enough times to bring this site up on the front page for nostalgia seekers. It will make a change to get some visitors who are searching for something other than the Olsen twins. They no doubt get a little bemused when their search directs them to this blog and to the LG Twins instead

However, I like to think that there’s something here for everyone and since this match report is all over the place anyway, it’s as good a week as any to slip in a picture of Mary-Kate and Ashley.

Olsen twins 2010 - A very popular search.

Anyway, back to the reminiscing and when my Granda was a kid, somewhere between the beginning of the twenty century and the start of the First World War, he had a dog. A pomeranian, to be more precise, although I’d be disappointed if you hadn’t guessed that for yourself by this point. It was a white pomeranian called Snowy and in the days when kids in the north-east of England didn’t have much apart from ricketts and a hacking cough, the dog was his pride and joy.

Snowy probably looked a bit like this. Initially, anyway.

Unfortunately Snowy passed away at some point, perhaps after catching my Granda’s cough. I don’t know for certain as that wasn’t part of the story. However, what happened next was passed down the generations. My Great Grandad, who apparently wasn’t one for the usual guff about dogs having gone to live on a farm, had Snowy skinned and made into a fireside rug. Yes, really. Not a very big rug I imagine, but a rug nevertheless. I’m now beginning to wonder if whenever they caught a mouse they would have them flattened and recycled as a drinks coaster. I hope so. Perhaps the intention was that they  would sit on what was left of Snowy as they lit fireworks and toasted Smores. Again, I’m guessing. My Granda did tell my Mam that he would lie with his face on the new rug and cry his eyes out, although in the days before you could watch the likes of the Olsen twins on television, an evening spent sobbing in front of an open fire was probably a bit of a treat.

The half pomeranian at the Halloween party is unlikely to meet a similar fate I suspect, and at sometime after midnight, with the fire burning out, the marshmallows all smored and the security guard due back at any moment with reinforcements we got a taxi to our hotel in Cheonan town centre. The driver had a sat nav but he obviously knew the way as he had it tuned into the Blackburn v Chelsea game instead. A nice way to round off the evening.

So, it’s taken a while, but eventually, the Seoul v Busan game. As we were hoping for Seoul to get beat we paid twelve thousand won to sit in the away end. At one point I thought we might be the only people behind that goal, but a few more Busan fans filtered in and sat near the front. I think it was probably the lowest crowd I’ve seen at a game in that ground and despite the attendance being officially stated at 28,000, I reckon that there were probably more like 8-10,000 there.

Not so many there.

Seoul took an early lead and then doubled it shortly after. It was a bit disappointing as Busan had looked fairly lively to start with. The visitors managed to pull a goal back just before half time though to give me a bit of hope.

Busan fans celebrate their goal

During the interval we were treated to an impressive display from some ninja people who with a variety of  jumps and kicks managed to thoughtfully litter the entire left side of the pitch with debris from smashed wooden boards. If they had brought on a couple of beagles to chew the boards up they couldn’t have made much more of a mess.

Would you make a mess like that at home?

In the second half Busan pushed for an equaliser, but it just wouldn’t come. They had enough of the play but they rarely managed a shot on target. Seoul did their best to run out the clock with plenty of timewasting, although I did wonder how often the physio was being called on to the pitch to extract balsa wood splinters from a players arse rather than to assess a footballing injury.

Busan push for a second goal.

The home team wrapped it up with a third goal towards the end to make it increasingly likely that Jen and I will be at the pony races in Jeju on the final weekend of the season rather than the World Cup Stadium.

If you were wondering about Jeonbuk and Lee Dong Gook, they won. I actually saw a bit of their second half on the telly in our Cheonan hotel room. A 3-1 victory over Chunnam Dragons taking them into third place in the table. Lee Dong Gook was captaining the team, although he didn’t score himself this week. He was subbed with a few minutes remaining and the game safely in the bag.

Next match for me will be midweek at Seongnam, where I’ll be hoping that they will make a better effort at taking points off Seoul than Busan managed.

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