Jeju United v Jeonbuk Motors, Saturday 24th September 2011, 3pm

I’ve been waiting a while to see a game in Jeju. Its island location means that a bit more effort is required to get there than most places. If Jeju United had managed to hold on to top spot in the league at the end of last season then I’d have seen the Championship play-off there. Unfortunately they slipped to second and I had to reschedule our flight tickets for a couple of months later when the season was over.

My plan this season had been to time my trips to those stadiums that I had yet to visit to coincide with the home team’s fixture against Lee Dong Gook’s team, Jeonbuk. It had worked well and Jeju was the final K-League destination on my list. That’s not to say that there won’t be other top division grounds for me to see over here; Incheon will move to a new home next season and I’d like to think that Daegu will return to the World Cup stadium now that the World Athletics Championships has finished.

Jen and into flew into Jeju International Airport on the last flight out of Gimpo on the Friday night. It wasn’t the best of journeys as the taxi ride from Yeoksam to Gimpo had taken us almost twice as long as the hour-long flight. I tend to smirk a bit when I see that an airport feels the need to include ‘International’ in its name. I think it just makes the place look small-time.

A much quicker taxi ride took us to the southern part of the island and the town of Seogwipo where we got a hotel in what appeared to be the only street that the bloke from the Lonely Planet Guide had visited.

Next morning we were up and out early as our plan was to walk to the game along one of the sections of Olle trail. It was just over fifteen kilometres long and it conveniently finished at the World Cup Stadium. I like walking to the match, I used to do it as a kid at Ayresome for financial reasons and still occasionally walk to the Riverside from Norton when I’m back in the UK. As I can afford the bus fare these days, I’ve been forced to conclude that I do it because I’m a bit odd.

Jen and I walked for four hours to a Seongnam game earlier in the year and then made an unfortunate effort to do the same for a Seoul game only to be thwarted by the floods after six hours. This time though it was quite straightforward, or at least it should have been. The Olle trail is generally well-marked but as we were doing it in the ‘wrong’ direction, starting from Oedolgae Rock, some of the signs were less noticeable.

Oedolgae Rock

We soon got lost and missed out some of the early sights, although we did pass a small football ground and an indoor croquet facility that was big enough to house aircraft in. I’ve no idea if croquet is, like snooker and darts, one of the sports that as host nation we will be adding to the 2012 Olympic event list. What I can be sure of is that we won’t have an indoor croquet facility anywhere in the UK that is even half the size of this one. I sense another banker gold medal slipping away.

I think our Olympians have the odd game in the back garden on a sunday afternoon.

We picked up the official route again after about an hour and a half and I reckon our short cut had probably knocked a couple of kilometres off it. Most of the Olle trail just follows the coast around Jeju and so there aren’t too many hills to deal with. The section that we were hiking (7-1) loops inland though and takes in the 396m Mount Gogeun.

I know that 396m does nt seem much, particularly when it is in the shadow of the 1950m Hallasan, but it was a decent slog up the last stages and would have been much more strenuous if we had done the walk the ‘right’ way around.

Hallasan viewed from Gogeunsan

As we came down the other side we got our first view of the World Cup Stadium. It’s an impressive sight with a roof on one side that curls around behind both goals.

Jeju World Cup Stadium

It didn’t take us long to walk into town and complete the section of Olle trail. After posting ourselves a box of Jeju tangerines, we had a lunch of pig bone soup. It was ok, possibly due to it coming with the first beer of the day.

We finally rolled up at the stadium with about forty minutes to kick-off. It was pretty quiet outside and I was a touch scathing about the lack of fans, particularly as Jeju United had been relocated from Bucheon a few years ago in a team-stealing move that puts MK Dons to shame.

We couldn’t find an open ticket office or entrance gate, but eventually got in via a museum. When I looked at the pitch I realised the reason for the lack of fans. The grass was long, there weren’t any markings and there weren’t any goal nets.

2.35pm and the groundsman still had a fair bit to do.

A quick chat with a couple of stadium employees confirmed that the game was actually scheduled to take place forty kilometres away in Jeju City. We hopped in a taxi and retraced the journey that we’d made the previous night, arriving some forty minutes later and thirty minutes after kickoff. It took us another ten minutes to find the ticket office and buy our five thousand won tickets and so it was five minutes to half time before we finally saw some football.

That big banner says that the match is here and not at the other ground. Thanks.

The first thing that I noticed was that Lee Dong Gook wasn’t playing. He’s been having a very good season with nineteen goals in all competitions, so my presumption was that Jeonbuk were saving him for the finely balanced mid-week Champions League fixture with Cerezo Osaka. Or perhaps he’d gone to the wrong stadium too.

The game was goalless when we arrived, a scoreline that probably suited Jeonbuk better than Jeju. Before this fixture the visitors were eight points clear at the top of the league with just five games remaining. It would take a disastrous collapse for them not to finish top and secure home advantage in the Play-off Final. Jeju were on the edge of the play-off places and really needed more than a point if they wanted to be involved in the post-season games.

The view from where I was sat.

There weren’t too many fans inside the ground, perhaps the venue change had confused a few other people too. I’d reckon on about three thousand, with Jeonbuk and their Mad Green Boys contributing about eighty of them. The Jeju Ora Stadium holds twenty thousand people, so it did look fairly empty. It’s about forty years old and a typical ‘bowl’’. There’s a running track and a small roof down one side.

Not so mad, they did at least get to the correct stadium.

The Lion King came off the bench ten minutes into the second half, replacing Luiz Henrique. After an initial spell playing a bit deeper than normal he moved further forward when Lovrek was subbed a few minutes later.

Time for a change.

Jeju hit the post on the hour from a free kick just outside the box and the Jeonbuk keeper made a good stop ten minutes from time, standing up well to a shot from a tight angle after a quick Jeju break.

Both sides had chances in the last few minutes but neither were able to break the deadlock and it finished goalless. We hung about for a few minutes to see if we had won a car in a raffle, although it would have been a hassle to get it back to Seoul. Maybe we could have got them to post it like the tangerines.

Whilst it was a bit disappointing not to see a game at the World Cup Stadium, there’s always next season and it did give us the opportunity to visit a ground that I hadn’t expected to get to. The point reduced Jeonbuk’s lead at the top of the table to five points, with just the four games to go.

3 Responses to “Jeju United v Jeonbuk Motors, Saturday 24th September 2011, 3pm”

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  2. Jeju Island | jenniferteacher2pointø Says:

    […] Jeju plays about three games per season in Jeju City, and this was one of them. That stadium is within easy walking distance of the airport, but about 45 minutes from Seogwipo. So, we hopped in a cab, and away we went. If you are interested in reading about the game, you can here. […]

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