Pohang Steelers v Jeonbuk Motors, Sunday 15th May 2011, 3pm

It’s been six weeks since I’ve seen Jeonbuk play. A combination of games in the lower divisions, visits to new stadiums in the K-League and a few hiking trips has made it difficult to fit one of their games in. I hadn’t been to the Pohang Steel Yard for a match before though and so this game seemed an ideal opportunity to catch up with the progress of Middlesbrough’s greatest ever Korean ex-player, Lee Dong Gook.

Jeonbuk had lost three-one away at Seoul when I last saw them. Since then though they had done pretty well, with an unbeaten run in the league and they were now topping the table with nineteen points from their opening nine fixtures. Perhaps I’m a jinx.

Lee Dong Gook has been doing pretty well too, going into this game with nine goals from twelve appearances in all competitions. To make things a little more interesting, today’s opponents Pohang Steelers are second to Jeonbuk in the league table and are Lee Dong Gook’s former club and home town. He made his debut for Pohang in 1998 and with the exception of a loan spell in Germany and his time doing National Service, he played here until signing for the Boro eight years later.

Jen and I had been staying in the Palgongsan Provincial Park the night before after having done a bit of hiking and so getting to Pohang wasn’t as difficult as it would have been had we been travelling from Seoul. We got a taxi into Daegu and then a bus to Pohang. The buses ran approximately every ten minutes according to the bloke at the terminal and ours took about an hour and a quarter. It was a lot quicker and more convenient than the train, where the only one that would have got us to Pohang in time for the match left at nine in the morning and wound its way around the countryside for two hours.

As it was, we got to Pohang just before noon. After a quick lunch of gimbap and kimchi mandu we had a wander along to the Jukdo Market.

Jukdo Market

It’s mainly fish with lots of them still alive in tanks. I reckon that I’ve probably been to zoos with less livestock in my time. I thought these octopuses were pretty well trained not to run off. We did see some smaller ones trying to leap out of the bowl of water that they were in.

Remarkably well behaved.

As well as the seafood there was the odd butchers shop, including one with a fridge full of dog on the pavement outside. I’ve not really noticed dog meat very often, although there are plenty of restaurants that serve it, often specialising in a combination of dog and duck. I do wonder what Koreans would think if they saw a ‘Dog and Duck’ pub sign in the UK and whether they would be disappointed at having to settle of a bag of crisps to eat.

There was no doubt to the contents of this fridge though, with at least three large dogs in various states of dismemberment. Some limbs were skinned, others left with the skin on. I’d read that some Koreans can get a bit arsey about foreigners taking photos of dog meat, but nobody gave me a second glance.

Dog meat.

There were also some penis fish. I can’t imagine buying any of those either as I would feel as if I were letting the side down if I took a knife and fork to one of them. I did take a photo though, wondering if it would get me any nearer the top of the ‘fish porn’ searches in Google.

Penis fish

We took a taxi to the Steelyard, which I think is a great name for a football ground and bought 10,000 won tickets that you could use for any part of the ground apart from the South stand which was reserved for the Jeonbuk supporters. We chose the West stand, mainly in the hope that we wouldn’t have the sun in our eyes. There was only one gate open and we had to queue for a couple of minutes before getting in.

There weren’t many empty seats along the side and we ended up near the corner flag, quite close to the back. It was still a good view though, as the lack of a running track and the steep gradient in the stands meant that we were pretty near to the pitch. It’s probably the best designed of all the football stadiums that I’ve been to in Korea, appropriately sized with a 25,000 capacity and with a roof all of the way around. There was a section on the other side of the ground that was fully occupied by soldiers. They seemed to clap and cheer in time with each other, so perhaps it’s something that they cover in basic training.

East stand

Jeonbuk, who were in their usual green shirts, started the stronger of the two teams, with Pohang in their Dennis the Menace kit looking a little nervous on the ball. The visitors had left their two Brazillians, Eninho and Luiz Henrique on the bench. Lovrek started on the left side of midfield and Lee Dong Gook was up front on his own. He came close to scoring after quarter of an hour, curling a shot just beyond the top corner after a one-two on the edge of the box with Lovrek.

Five minutes later, the Lion King missed a far easier chance when he wellied the ball over the bar from a few yards out. It must have felt as if he was back at The Riverside.

Pohang Steelers on the attack.

The missed chances were forgotten a few minutes before half-time though as Lee Dong Gook got his tenth goal of the season when his shot from way out took a massive deflection and left the keeper with no chance. A minute before the break Jeonbuk doubled their lead when Park Won Jae volleyed home from the edge of the box, also against his former club and in his home town.

At half-time we had a wheel of fortune game where a bloke won a car. There had been a similar prize at the Chunnam Dragons match a couple of weeks ago and on both occasions I wondered how the relatively low gate receipts could justify that kind of prize.

That's right, drive it straight across the pitch.

My daughter and I were in the audience for the recording of the real Wheel of Fortune show a couple of years ago. We were in LA and thought that it might be quite interesting to visit a TV studio. I don’t think we got on the telly as we looked to have been carefully placed in the section where the less photogenic members of the audience sit. Still, it was something different.

Lee Dong Gook didn’t reappear at the start of the second half, having been replaced by big lunk Jeong Seong Hoon. I can only assume that he had picked up an injury as it was a bit early to regard the game as being in the bag and to look ahead to the next one.

West stand

Sure enough, fifteen minutes in, Pohang pulled a goal back with a free header at a corner. Jeonbuk’s task was made even harder a few minutes later when Jung Hoon picked up his second yellow of the afternoon. Perhaps him only having two names makes the refs more inclined to book him.

The home fans were really getting behind their team at this point and with the stadium around two-thirds full there was a decent atmosphere. It got a whole lot better as well when Pohang substitute Adriano Chuva equalised and then celebrated by donning a single white glove.

The momentum was all with Pohang by this time, with Chuva and former Northampton, Shrewsbury and Hamilton Academicals striker Derek Asamoah causing plenty of problems. Fifteen minutes from the end Pohang were awarded a penalty and Chuva converted it to give the home team a three-two victory.

3 - 2.

The win took Pohang back to the top of the table, dropping Jeonbuk down into second place two points behind. I’ve seen Jeonbuk three times this season and they have lost each of those games. As those are their only league defeats I think my theory that I may be a jinx could well have something in it.

We got a taxi to the train station where we were entertained by a row between a bloke on a mobility scooter, a pair of identically dressed female twins in their fifties and a fella who looked a little worse for wear. The Police Station was only thirty yards away and the drama was enough for them to come and break it up by taking the easier option of nicking the bloke who could walk. The twins followed as he was led away, haranguing him from a safe distance.

Don't mess with The Twins.

A slow train then took us to Daegu, followed by a much quicker one back to Seoul.

5 Responses to “Pohang Steelers v Jeonbuk Motors, Sunday 15th May 2011, 3pm”

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