Gimhae City v Yangju Citizen, Saturday 28th April 2012, 7pm

It’s second round of the FA Cup time in Korea and just like in England it’s the last set of ties before the big clubs come in. For third division teams like Gimhae and Yangju, a second round victory will be rewarded by a game against international players, possibly in one of the World Cup stadiums and (unless they draw Seongnam) a crowd considerably larger than they are used to playing in front of.

I’d made my way down to Gimhae earlier in the day to watch some baseball and afterwards got a lift into town from fellow Boro fan Alan who lives down that way. We stopped for something to eat at a traditional sit-on-the-floor seafood restaurant where I was able to compensate for my lack of flexibility by positioning myself with my back against the wall. The food was good though and as we were only in there for half an hour or so I was able to get to my feet unaided.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the old-fashioned places are cheating a bit. Some give you that much-appreciated back support by having chairs without legs. My favourite places take it a step further though and have a hole under the low table to dangle your legs into. A bit like those inspection pits that people used to have in their garages in the days when it was the done thing to fix your own car. I had a pit in the garage of one of my old houses. It was filled with old shoes for some reason though and so little use for car maintenance. Although as I’m not the sort of bloke who knows a crankshaft from a camshaft, it’s probably just as well.

Gimhae Civil Stadium

We arrived at the Gimhae Civil Stadium twenty minutes or so before kick-off. The surrounding area had been very busy and for a while we wondered if there would be a bigger crowd than normal. There wasn’t though. The crowds of people were there for a big event nearby.

It was a shame that more of them didn’t decide to watch some football as there was plenty of room. Gimhae Civil Stadium has an official capacity of thirty thousand and whilst it didn’t look that big to me, the hundred and twenty or so spectators were never going to have any worries about finding an empty seat.

There were four Gimhae ‘ultras’ to our right. They had marked their territory with material, although with nobody within thirty yards of them it seemed a little unnecessary. They very politely lifted the barriers for me when I had to pass them to go for a second half slash.

The Gimhae diehards.

Yangju had brought about fifteen fans with them from north of Seoul. It was an impressive effort as the club hadn’t put a supporters bus on for them and they had travelled independently. Like the Gimhae fans they kept their chanting and drumming going for most of the game.

The Yangju fans

Gimhae were wearing a sort of AC Milan kit, although the black stripes didn’t go all of the way up the front of the shirt. Yangju were dressed up as Norwich. The breakthrough came early as Gimhae went a goal up in the first couple of minutes. We were talking and not really paying attention so I couldn’t tell you what happened.

Yangju looked to be the better team in the remainder of the first half, but Gimhae could easily have gone two up against the run of play when they hit the post on the half-hour.

First half action.

At half time we got a firework display from the Yangju fans that lasted a good few minutes. Eventually there was an announcement on the tannoy telling them that fireworks weren’t allowed and asking that they didn’t light any more when the current ones had gone out. Maybe the Yangju fans struggle to understand the southern accent because they didn’t take the slightest notice. It was only when a bloke in a suit turned up and had a word that the fireworks stopped. Even then I suspect that it was more likely to be due to them having none left to light rather than a sudden grasping of the Gimhae twang.

Yangju celebrate only being a goal down at half time.

Gimhae picked up the pace a bit after the break and fifteen minutes into the second half they equalised with a shot from the edge of the box. As the second half drew to a close our attention drifted somewhat to the Boro game kicking off in England. I couldn’t get a live feed on my phone but at least the BBC updates every minute or so kept us in touch with whether or not our promotion hopes were still alive.

Extra time came and went for Gimhae and Yangju without any further goals and we went into a penalty shoot out. The Gimhae keeper managed to keep one of the Yangju penalties out whilst Gimhae scored all five to go through to the Third Round. I was expecting more of a celebration from the winners but they seemed quite laid back about it all. Perhaps a trip to one of the big teams isn’t something that they really fancy. Or maybe they are just cool fellas who don’t make a fuss about stuff.

That’s all folks.

As Alan was driving me towards Busan train station we got the update that confirmed Boro’s season was over. We’d taken it to the final game which is something that I’d have settled for last August but it’s still disappointing when even the slimmest of chances finally disappears. I’d booked an early morning train back to Seoul so picked a hotel as close to the station as I could. I had stayed at the Samil Hotel when Jen and I were in Busan last year and I couldn’t remember whether it was any good or not.

Samil Inn, Busan.

It wasn’t. Whilst it was cheap and handy, it smelt as if the room hadn’t been aired for months. Hopefully I’ll remember that next time.

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