Jeonbuk Motors v Gyeongnam, Saturday 20th November 2010, 3pm

This match marked the start of the play-offs in the K-League. For those not familiar with the format the league isn’t decided by the final placings, of course not, that’s far too simple. Instead we have an extra three weeks tagged onto the end of the season where the top six sides battle it out for the championship. I’m fine with that as it gives me the chance to watch a bit more football, although if I were a player or a fan of the team that had topped the table then I might just feel a little differently.

Jeonbuk finished third in the league and so this entitled them to a home tie against the sixth placed team, Gyeongnam. The winners of that game will play the winners of the fourth against fifth clash between Ulsan and Seongnam. Whoever comes out on top in that match will be given the a Champions League spot and an away tie at second placed Jeju United. The victorious team in that contest will then play table toppers Seoul over two legs for the title. Seoul and Jeju have already been awarded Champions League places for finishing first and second, as has Suwon Bluewings as a reward for winning the FA Cup.

The trip to Jeonju for the first of the play-off fixtures was looking as if it might be a bit more eventful than my usual jaunt to a game as I was traveling down with three lads from a messageboard I use. They’ve all been here in Korea for a bit longer than me and so know their stuff where local football is concerned.

 The plan was that we would have a few beers on the KTX from Yongsan to Iksan and then meet up with another four lads at the stadium in a sort of  post-season piss up. I always think traveling on a train to a football match and talking bollocks with like minded people over a few cans is one of life’s pleasures and it’s something I don’t do often enough these days.

My son Tom and I went down to Peterborough on the train last season to watch the Boro and we were fortunate enough to get a table opposite a couple of other Boro fans. The journey flew by as despite never having met before we were able to share memories of past games, European trips and of players long gone. In an added bonus that day, we got to re-live standing on the terrace behind the goal too.

Peterborough away, a rare return to the terraces.

The journey to Iksan was very similar in that we were able to get a table for four on the train where we passed a very pleasant couple of hours accumulating empty cans whilst talking football. Once there, we restocked with beer at a convenience store outside the station and then got a taxi for the twenty minute drive to the ground.

Jeonju World Cup Stadium is actually about halfway between Iksan and Jeonju stations, so it makes sense to just get the cab from Iksan, rather than changing trains there, travelling on to Jeonju and then getting in a taxi. I wish I’d known that earlier in the season when I’d ruled out being able to attend a Jeonbuk Sunday evening game because there wasn’t a connecting train from Jeonju that would have got me back to Seoul that night. Still, that’s one of the advantages of traveling with people who know what they are doing.

Iksan Station, on the way to a previous game.

One of the good things about Jeonbuk is the selection of food and drink stalls outside the stadium. Or at least it normally is, it seems that most of them have gone now that the weather has got colder, but we did manage to get a bit of chicken on a stick and a few bottles of makgeolli. The chicken tasted like it may very well have been on the stick since the busier days of the summer, but the makgeolli went down well, as it always does. We made our way into the ground and got some more beer before taking our seats in the East Stand.

The Jolly Boys' Outing

The East Stand was fairly full, or at least it was in the lower tier where we were. There weren’t too many people in the rest of the stadium though. A few Gyeongnam fans to our left, possibly a couple of bus-loads, with maybe five or six hundred Jeonbuk fans to our right.

Jeonbuk fans

Lee Dong Gook was captaining Jeonbuk, who started strongly, taking the lead after ten minutes through Cho Sung Hwan. The action was secondary to the drinking and talking though, as it tends to be for a fair number of people at Korean football games.

I've been at games where this would have doubled the crowd.

By the time the second half got underway I couldn’t really tell you very much about the detail of the game, apart from Jeonbuk were still winning. Not that you tend to get a lot of detail in these write-ups anyway. I can remember that the fried chicken seemed ok, but you should probably assume that it was more as a consequence of the cans of Hite than take it as any endorsement of the catering. At least the chicken had bones in it. I’d had some chicken at Seoul’s stadium recently where the manufacturer had gone to the trouble to mould what were effectively chicken nuggets into a variety of shapes such as wings and legs. I don’t know why they bothered. If I’ve decided that I’m going to eat reconstituted and bleached mechanically recovered chicken eyelids, I don’t need to be kidded that I’m eating actual limbs of a whole chicken, albeit one that has been very cleverly bred not to have any bones in it.

A few months ago I was in quite a badly lit basement bar and I ordered what looked, from the picture, to be chicken pieces, hopefully breast and perhaps in a sweet and sour sauce. Fortunately someone came out from the kitchen to query my order and to check that I really did want a plate of chicken feet. Which I didn’t.

Chicken feet, best served in dimly lit bars.

Anyway, by the time I’d had enough chicken wings Eninho had got a second goal for the home team to seal the victory and book Jeonbuk’s place in the next round of the play-offs. They seem to be coming back into form after their late season wobble and it wouldn’t surprise me if they progress a bit further.

The ref checks his watch.

We made our way outside after the game and by borrowing a couple of barriers from the car park had a kick around in the shadow of the World Cup Stadium whilst the rest of the crowd headed for home.

Rumours of a new K4 Division.

With the impromptu game of four-a-side finished, we ended up in Jeonju for the night where I recall eating in one of those barbecue restaurants before sloping off to bed early. There’s a limit to how long I can drink these days and ten hours is pretty much as good as it gets. I’ve no idea what the next game I’ll get to will be, it depends really on whether Seongnam progress in the play-offs which would enable me to get to the first leg of the final. I’ll definitely be at the second leg of the final though in Seoul, which will bring the season to a conclusion and which should give me another opportunity to eat fake chicken legs.

2 Responses to “Jeonbuk Motors v Gyeongnam, Saturday 20th November 2010, 3pm”

  1. Cogstar Says:

    What no comment on the fact that ‘it’s kicking off a bit’ out your way. More interest in chicken feet than the fact the red arrows are flying low over the islands? What’s the worst thing that could happen? you’ve be reduced to chicken beaks?

  2. onthetrailofthelionking Says:

    The prospect of eating chicken feet inadvertently is pretty scary. The North getting arsey seems less so. It’s a bit like if the jocks started firing at Holy Island, a bit of a nuisance for the monks I suppose, but not much in the way of consequences for people in, say, Teesside, which is a similar distance away as I am from the Korean island that they bombed.

    Thats what I said to my Mam to stop her worrying anyway. All it did though was make her wonder if Scotland was planning a bit of a skirmish and whether they should board up the caravan.

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