Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Dolphins v Goyang KB, Sunday 20th November 2011, 4pm

The previous day had been fairly warm in Ulsan and I’d hiked in Gajisan Provincial Park in shorts. Today though, it was absolutely freezing. So much so that Jen and I had to go and buy warm clothes from a local department store. I rarely bother going shopping in Korea. Actually I rarely bother going shopping anywhere, but in Korea there just aren’t that many items of clothing that will fit me. Shoes are a waste of time, shop assistants just laugh when I tell them the size. I’ve never seen any trousers that would fit me either. On this occasion though I got away with a tightly fitting zip up hoodie and a thermal vest. Luckily my head and hands are a similar size to those of the locals and so I could get a hat and some gloves. Even so, I was still feeling the chill despite the extra layers.

We were braving the cold so that we could see the second leg of the National League Play-off final between Ulsan Mipo and Goyang KB. It wasn’t due to start until four in the afternoon though and so after my annual visit to the shops we took a taxi to Jangsaengpo where there is a whale museum. Ulsan used to be the main location for the whaling industry in Korea, so it seemed as good a place as anywhere to spend an hour or two. Especially as it was indoors.

We’d taken that long getting kitted out in our new clobber that it was lunchtime by the time we arrived at Jangsaengpo. On the opposite side of the road to the museum there are a dozen or so restaurants that specialise in whale meat. That seems a bit strange, with commercial whaling being banned but whilst it is illegal to intentionally catch whales, it’s apparently hunky dory if you don’t really mean to catch one. If, say, a Blue Whale or two accidentally take your bait whilst you are fishing for mackerel or if you happen to trip over one on the beach whilst you are walking your dog, then that’s fine. There must be an awful lot of surprise catches or early morning discoveries at low tide though to keep that many restaurants in business.

Just like the Wetherby Whaler, except they don't do chips. Or fish.

We picked a place to eat on the basis that it had chairs and ordered some sort of set menu. To start with we got some cold thinly sliced cooked whale meat. It had the texture of beef and wasn’t too dissimilar in appearance. Apart, that is from the inch wide layer of blubber and the thick skin on the edge.

The skin was a bit chewy.

We also got some strips of raw whale meat, served with apple. It was just standard sort of sushi stuff really, you wouldn’t have known it was whale if it hadn’t been for the photos in the restaurant  window of a couple of Minkes on the deck of a boat with their throats cut. It tasted pretty good though.

I did wonder just how big their fridge must be.

Next we got some spicy whale soup that was just like any other spicy soup over here. If they had fobbed us off with pieces of shark or dolphin, I wouldn’t have been any the wiser. After that we had some lumps of hot meat, but I found it harder work with too much fat. It looked like beef but had a mild fishy taste. Not surprising I suppose. I was fairly full by then so it was no hardship to limit myself to eating only the best bits.

Fourth course.

After lunch we had a look around the whaling museum where there were some interesting old photos and plenty of skeletons. The whole tone of the place seemed to be ‘Whale watching is good, but proper whaling is better’.

At around three o’clock we got a taxi to Ulsan Mipo’s ground. It’s over in the east of the city and quite handy for the bus stations and the Jangsaengpo whale restaurants. We decided that we would sit in the sun as it  meant the difference between mild and severe frostbite. Before we took our seats we had a walk around the outside of the stadium and then I took a stroll through the main entrance and joined the pre-match pitch inspection. The players were as well wrapped up as we were and I suspect that those who had been named as subs wouldn’t have been too upset about it.

No white Spice Boy suits for these lads.

It was a decent turnout for a National League game, albeit the final one of the season. I’d estimate that there were around five hundred spectators there, including forty or so from Goyang, most of them seeking out the last of the sunshine in the stand that we were in.

I think that Jen and I were the only people who had eaten before the match as everyone else was stuffing their face all the way through the game. One bloke had his back to the game for most of the first half as he demolished the box of food on the seat behind him. It’s as if the game just provides an excuse for a picnic.

The alternative to eating a whale before you set off.

The game was finely poised at one all after the first leg. Neither Ulsan in blue or Goyang in yellow settled well and it was a scrappy opening half hour with the players on both sides making frequent mistakes.

Sometimes it got a little congested.

Ulsan took the lead in the thirty-third minute when a cross from the right was swept home by Kim Hyo Gi. They held on until the interval, as did Jen. At that point though she called it a day and cleared off to a nearby supermarket before her eyeballs froze solid. I braved the second half from the opposite stand, the move being as much about getting my circulation going as the change of scenery.

The view from the other side

Goyang had the odd chance after the break, but Ulsan were definitely the better team and they could have made the game safe with better finishing or less inspired keeping from the visiting goalie. There were no more goals though and Ulsan took the championship two-one on aggregate.

The Ulsan subs celebrate getting through ninety minutes with their coats on.

I stayed for the fireworks and the presentations, making my way down to the side of the pitch and joining the press photographers. I think I may have been the only person without a two foot long lens of the front of my camera. As we were only stood about five yards from the celebrations I don’t think it made too much of a difference.

It was time to play that Queen song.

That’s it then for the National League. I’ve seen a bit more of it this year than last and have enjoyed watching the season unfold. It’s a reasonable standard, you generally get in for free and there are usually a few hundred fans at most games who will generate a decent atmosphere. 

In addition to getting whale meat for lunch before this game, other highlights of Korea’s second tier league have included a plague of frogs in the toilets at Changwon and getting to take a shot at goal from the centre circle during half time at Goyang. Hopefully next season will bring more of the same.

3 Responses to “Ulsan Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Dolphins v Goyang KB, Sunday 20th November 2011, 4pm”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    *ahem* whale skeleton pictures!!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I’m drawing a whale skeleton for inclusion in a later blog

  3. onthetrailofthelionking Says:

    I don’t think I took any photos of the whale skeletons, but from what I remember they are pretty much just backbones and ribs. They don’t even have proper skulls, just jaws. I’m surprised that the tops of their heads don’t cave in when they swim below 20m. I’ll be very happy to include a whale skeleton drawing in the next Ulsan post though.

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