Seoul Utd v Gyeongju Citizen, Saturday 10th March 2012, 3pm

One of the places where I’ve wanted to see a football match in Korea is at the Olympic Stadium. As far as I can tell, it’s the biggest ground in Korea, South Korea at least, and it’s got that touch of history about it. Apart from that, it’s the nearest stadium to where I live and I see it every time I go to watch the baseball at Jamsil.

The difficulty is that nobody plays there these days. There’s a student game takes place each autumn, I think, some sort of Korean version of the Varsity match, but whenever it’s been on, I’ve been somewhere else.

Maybe they should rent it to West Ham.

Third division Seoul United used to play there, but for the last couple of years they’ve been turning out in Hyochang or Nowon. For some reason though, they decided that what they needed for their first home fixture of this season, was a 69,000 capacity stadium. Woo hoo. Or maybe not. After having my hopes raised, they were quickly dashed when it was announced that whilst the game would take place at Jamsil, it would be on the nearby practice pitch rather than the main stadium.

The practice pitch is on the left, with the floodlights.

Marvellous. I doubt that they would have shunted Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis outside and told them just to run up and down the car park. Still, I hadn’t seen a game on the practice pitch before either, so I thought I’d go along anyway.

It was a sunny day, so I left early and walked there. It’s only forty minutes or so along a straight road that takes you past a few of the big hotels and the COEX centre, following the route of the subway. If I’d actually used the subway then the three stop journey would have taken six minutes, but as I say, I wasn’t in a hurry.

I passed the Art Nouveau City hotel where Jen and I sometimes go for their wine buffet on a mid-week evening. If I’m out of work sharpish, which I usually am, we can be in there not long after half past six and can spend a couple of hours in their comfy armchairs chugging fine wines that are limited only by the need to stand up again afterwards. They have food as well, so it’s a pretty good deal for thirty-odd thousand won and an ideal start to an evening.

We drink on the top floor. Partly because of the view but mainly because that's where they serve the wine.

Anyway, despite choosing to walk rather than get the subway, I was still at Jamsil two and a half hours before kick-off. I was wandering around, as you do, before spotting a bloke stood next to a Seoul United sponsored car. He looked at bit old to be a player, but turned out to be the manager.  We chatted briefly and he told me that after yet another change of plan the game would take place in the main stadium rather than the practice pitch. He also told me that they would win. Only one of those statements turned out to be correct.

The Seoul United manager. He has feet in real-life.

His team were beginning to arrive and in a sign that I’m getting older, they all looked about fourteen. I left him to do whatever managers do two and a half hours before kick-off and went and watched some baseball, a little more excited by the prospect of returning to see a game in the main stadium than a man of my age really should be.

I doubt that any of them were born when the Olympics were here.

Half an hour before kick-off I was back and was pleased to see that a gate to the main stadium was open and that there were people going inside. Not too many people mind. I counted them and reckon that including those in the media section who may or may not have just been sitting there so that they could place their food and drink on the tables provided, the attendance was one hundred and forty. In a stadium with a capacity of almost seventy thousand, that has to be the highest ever ratio of seats to arses at any game I’ve ever been to.

Plenty of space.

The teams came out and lined up before turning to face the Korean flag. It looked as if they were expecting the National Anthem, but it wasn’t played and ten seconds later they sheepishly turned back to the front. Seoul Utd were in a Newcastle strip, whilst Gyeongju had a very imaginative effort of yellow shirts with a green and red stripe. They combined this with blue shorts in what I’m sure was a contravention of some FIFA regulation limiting the number of colours in a kit.

It's still better than black and white stripes.

It was quite a lively opening few minutes with Seoul winning a couple of corners. They were cheered on by their five ultras, one of whom had brought his drum. All their chants followed the same format of shouting a player’s name followed by three bangs of the drum. It’s as well that they don’t have any single name Brazilians at this level, although thinking about it, a lot of them have a three syllable name and so it would still work quite well.

It's like the Gallowgate End in the seventies.

The visitors took the lead after twelve minutes. A deep cross to the Seoul back post was knocked back into the goalmouth where the keeper, at full stretch, couldn’t hold on to it. The Gyeongju striker who picked up the loose ball had time to pick his spot and put his side a goal up.

A quarter of an hour later, Seoul were level. Their number 14 managed to get away from his marker at a throw in and bore down on the keeper whilst a defender snapped away at his ankles like a bad tempered pug. Despite not striking the ball cleanly he still managed to hit it across the keeper and into the corner of the net. One each.

It's on its way in.

There were a couple of other chances before half-time but it remained level at the break. I took the opportunity to switch to the other side of the stadium and bask in the mid-afternoon sunshine. A great plan in theory, apart from it didn’t feel any warmer and I had the sun in my eyes.

Shortly after the re-start, Gyeongju were back in front when one of their strikers was played through the centre and he just managed to get to the ball before the advancing keeper, poking it past him to make it 2-1 to the visitors.

Gyeongju increased their lead on the hour when after a goalmouth scramble in which they should have scored twice before they did, they finally got the ball into the net. It looked at that point as if they might run away with the game. I glanced across at the Seoul manager on the other side of the stadium and wondered if he was mentally revising his pre-game prediction.

See, he does have feet.

Ten minutes from time, Seoul pulled one back to spark what should have been a frantic finish. It wasn’t though, as Gyeongju kept them pinned back in their own half and denied them the chance of throwing everyone forward.

Seoul press for an equaliser, whilst the linesman tries to levitate.

At the final whistle I took the opportunity to walk around the track and then up the 100m home straight. I didn’t cover the ground as quickly as Ben Johnson did all those years ago, but I’d had nothing stronger than a couple of cans of Cass and I’m not sure just how performance-enhancing that stuff really is.

2 Responses to “Seoul Utd v Gyeongju Citizen, Saturday 10th March 2012, 3pm”

  1. heat seo Says:

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  2. Abo Says:

    Hi Grace, I apologize for tainkg so long to reply. I’m afraid my blog writing has taken a back seat to my masters studies these days. I am busy writing my thesis, which involves the Buddhist history of the Silla Dynasty, especially under the Silla kings Beopheung, Jinheung and Jinpyeong. I will be happy to share it with you when I am finished. I am also very interested in your research about the function of Cheomseongdae. Could you share more?

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