For this weekend’s trip Jen and I caught the Friday night KTX to Gwangju. It took us two hours and forty minutes to get there which coincidentally turned out to be just the right amount of time needed for us to work our way through a couple of bottles of screw-top Australian red. I’d like to think that someone took that into consideration when building the rail network.
We stayed in a motel next to the Gwangju Songjeong Station. It was only 30,000 won, which might explain why the decoration in the room consisted of a Titanic poster (sadly from the film and not the actual launching of the ship) and a Hite calendar featuring half nudey girls.
Next day we had a bit of time to spare before the third division game between Gwangju Gwangsan and Jeonju EM. Gwangju is a city that seems to be at the heart of any protest going and the Jeil High School had an exhibition showing how its students had stood up to the occupying Japanese on a fairly regular basis in the run up to World War II. It was quite a strange collection of stuff with photos of kids getting their heads cracked with sticks sitting alongside pictures of each year’s football or martial arts team. One corner, which seemed particularly out of place, was dedicated to basketball and baseball trophies. Nevertheless it was an interesting way to pass an hour or so.
After lunch we had a walk along the river, where the shops seemed to come in batches. There would be a whole street knocking out wedding dresses, followed by a hundred yards of tool hire shops. I think I liked the street of pet shops best, with some quite odd looking dogs in their windows.
The opportunity to tap on the glass and attract the attention of the puppies occupied me for longer than it really should have and by the time we got a taxi to Honam University for the football we were cutting it a little fine. The game had already kicked off as we arrived, with Gwangju in an all blue strip that looked like it had faded in the sun. Jeonju EM wore their white away kit.
It was a pleasant place to watch a game in the sunshine. We took up a position along the side opposite the dug-outs. It was raised about eight feet so there was a decent view of the artificial pitch. A minute or two after we arrived a bloke appeared with a couple of plastic chairs for us. Fortunately the attendance was below twenty so there were enough seats left to accommodate latecomers like ourselves.
Twenty minutes in, Gwangju took the lead through their number thirteen. I don’t know his name and although it seems harsh, it doesn’t matter. He flicked the ball upwards and then volleyed home from over twenty yards. It was one of those shots that hung in the air but you knew from the moment that he struck it that the keeper wouldn’t be getting anywhere near it.
It was quite a tight game with both defences seeming to have the measure of their opponents. The keepers looked confident and for a long time it appeared likely that the one goal would be enough to clinch the victory. Fifteen minutes from time though, Jeonju got a penalty which was confidently put away.
The game opened up in the last quarter of an hour as both teams went for the winner. The Gwangju keeper made a couple of very good saves from close range shots, whilst one of his team mates rattled the crossbar at the other end. A draw was about right in the end in what had been an evenly matched contest.
We caught a taxi back into town for a night that eventually ended up in a coffee shop that had the gimmick of having about a dozen cats running around wild. Jen reckons that there are other places doing a similar thing, some with dogs, so I’ll look forward to seeking more of them out. Hopefully there might be one somewhere with pigs or horses wandering around between the tables. Don’t worry, I’ll take my camera next time.
For those of you with an interest in higher division football and/or Lee Dong Gook, Jeonbuk won 3-2 away at Daejeon with two goals from the Lion King. Jeonbuk regained pole position from Pohang whilst Lee Dong Gook’s brace took him to twelve goals from sixteen appearances in all competitions this season.