Seongnam v Suwon Bluewings, Saturday 15th October 2011, 2pm

I hadn’t been to a Korean football game for almost a fortnight as I’d had to go to Oman for a couple of meetings. It was an interesting enough visit with plenty of wild camels, goats and dogs wandering about but being in a construction camp five hours drive into the desert isn’t really the way that I’d prefer to spend too much of my life. 

You don't see many of those wandering around in Seoul.

Fortunately I got back to Seoul in sufficient time to be able to go to the FA Cup Final between Seongnam and Suwon. Seongnam, who won last season’s Asian Champions League are having quite a poor season and have been out of play-off contention for a while. Suwon are faring a bit better and are still in this season’s ACL and looking good for no worse than a third or fourth place finish in the K-League.

I arrived at Seongnam in plenty of time and was in the ground a good hour before the scheduled two o’clock kick-off. I went for a seat in the West stand as that’s the one with the best roof. The sky had been overcast all morning and I was expecting rain before too long.

The Suwon fans had been allocated the South stand to my right. That stand holds a couple of thousand people and  there were already three hundred or so visiting supporters in there when I arrived. I was fairly confident that the visitors would fill it by kick-off time despite the poor weather. Suwon are one of the better supported teams in Korea and they probably took close on two thousand all the way down to Busan on the south coast for last year’s final.

I wasn’t so confident about the turnout from the Seongnam fans though, despite the final being played at their stadium. I’ve been to games at Tancheon before where they probably haven’t had more than about fifteen hundred people in the ground in total, including a fair percentage of schoolkids on freebies.

It didn't seem like Cup Final weather.

Ten minutes after I took my seat the rain started and a few minutes later the running track was submerged. I was curious to see how the pitch would hold up as it had been so poor last season that it didn’t seem to ever last any longer than six weeks at a time before it needed re-laying. The way the rain was coming down it wouldn’t have surprised me to see large sections of turf being washed away.

The rain continued  for twenty minutes or so before easing off half an hour before kick-off. The roof around three quarters of the stadium doesn’t really cover more than the back few rows so it was no surprise that most seats remained empty until the sun came out.

Suwon have a couple of  different groups of fans, the bog standard ‘Grandbleu’ and the slightly more ultra ‘Highland Este’. The latter group mark off their own area with tape, a bit like arsey campers at Glastonbury. Their hardcore image was spoilt a little though when they started waving balloons around like apprentice Morris Dancers.

They've been known to terrorise opposition fans by popping a balloon.

Suwon were in their all-white change strip whilst Seongnam wore their usual Watford gear. It was the visitors who started the better of the two teams and they wasted a couple of good chances in the first few minutes. Seongnam probably edged the first half though and had a decent opportunity with a long-range shot that was tipped over the bar by the Suwon keeper.

Despite Seongnam looking the better team Suwon had the best chance of the half when they had a goal disallowed for offside after thirty minutes. It looked ok to me but the linesman had his flag up straight away.

If you half close your eyes it could be Watford v Leeds.

At the interval we were treated to a performance by girl band Sistar. There was a buzz of excitement in the West stand that was far greater than anything the football had produced and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the teenagers in the crowd were only there to see their idols lip-synch their way through their latest hit. It was probably just as well that the microphones weren’t switched on as mid-way through Sistar’s performance the rain started to fall heavily once more.

The Room Salon beckons.

Whilst the subs warmed up on what looked more like a river than a running track I kept glancing across to the baseball stadium next door. There was an amateur game going on that the players seemed desperate to finish but in the end the rain was too much for them. To make it worse for the players, they had to pull the covers over the bases themselves.

I'd have done a 'Tevez'.

The second half remained goalless until fifteen minutes from time when a glancing header from a corner put Seongnam a goal up. Suwon tried to come back into it but they couldn’t come up with that little bit of magic necessary to break down the Seongnam defence. In the final moments, Suwon had a player sent off for going ape-shit at the extra official behind the goal when a penalty appeal was turned down.

The winning goal.

It was a shame that the penalty appeal was turned down. Half an hour of extra time might have meant that I wouldn’t have got drenched on the way back to the subway. The win not only took the FA Cup to Seongnam but it meant that they qualified for next season’s Champions League too.

2 Responses to “Seongnam v Suwon Bluewings, Saturday 15th October 2011, 2pm”

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    […]Seongnam v Suwon Bluewings, Saturday 15th October 2011, 2pm « On the trail of the Lion King[…]…

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