Archive for July, 2012

Suwon Bluewings v Jeonbuk Motors, Saturday 14th July 2012, 7pm

July 20, 2012

It was a quiet weekend for sport. The National and Challengers football Leagues were still on their summer breaks and the second tier baseball Futures League teams were having a weekend off as well. Jeonbuk were in town though for a game against Suwon Bluewings and so Jen and I decided to go along to that one.

The original plan had been to walk around the Suwon Fortress Wall before the match. I’ve done it before and it’s a pleasant enough way to spend a few hours. It’s the wrong time of year though for that sort of thing with all the rain and so we decided to visit a few coffee shops instead. I can guess what you are thinking. Something along the lines of my balls are now being kept in a jar and in ordinary circumstances you’d have a point. I mean, why would you go to a coffee shop? It’s easy enough to make a cup of coffee at home so what makes women pay four quid a pop to drink it with a bunch of strangers? To my mind it’s as odd a thing to do as choosing to leave your house to use a public toilet rather than your own.

These weren’t normal coffee shops though. They all had a bit of an animal theme ranging from dogs to cats to sheep and to my mind that makes it a fine way to spend some time. The dog place was first and it had a rather cunning business plan which involved people paying to board their dogs whilst away on holiday and the dogs then spending their days wandering around a cafe whilst customers who like to pat them on the head paid further over the odds than normal for their tall skinny lattes. Any cash that people had left could be used to buy snacks for the dogs, removing the need for the cafe to feed them. Genius really. Although I did wonder what the owners would say when they came to collect their dog and discovered that Fido had gained three stones in weight within a fortnight.

Surprisingly very few children had limbs bitten off.

There were an assortment of canines, starting with some about the size of a guinea pig, one that looked half husky, something that was probably close to being an old english sheepdog and in the corner an overweight arthritic beagle that had to drag its back legs behind it whenever it wanted to secure its share of the snacks.

It could probably have ran for miles a week or two earlier.

The cat cafe wasn’t as good, mainly because it smelt like a room with twenty cats in it. You couldn’t feed them so just had to sit there and wait for one to wander over and sit on your knee or go to sleep on your table. We had to remove our shoes and disinfect our hands before we went in, but really that was all the wrong way around. I’m sure I smelt like a mad cat lady for the rest of the day.

It smells much better in the photos.

Next up was the sheep place and that was the worst of the three, primarily because there were no sheep. A sheep cafe without sheep is just a cafe. A fraudulent cafe if you ask me. A sign by the empty pen advised that they were away for the summer. I bet they were. Gone to live on a farm, I imagine. What are the odds that when their holiday is over they will be replaced by new ones half the size and age?

They’ve gone to a better place.

So, after visiting a year’s worth of coffee shops in a single day it was time for the football. Suwon and Jeonbuk are two of the main contenders for the K-League title but have had contrasting fortunes lately. Jeonbuk had only dropped a single point in the last nine league games whilst Suwon had slipped to four points behind the visitors with 5-0 and 3-0 defeats in their last two games.

Jen and I got to the stadium early to make sure of a seat under cover in the East Stand and slowly worked our way through a box of fried chicken and a couple of bottles of red wine. Lee Dong Gook was starting up front for Jeonbuk and both Brazilians were in from the start. There had been reports before the game that Luiz had agreed to join UAE club Al-Shabab and so it was good to see him keep his place.

Both sets of fans were impressive, braving the rain in the uncovered ends of the stadium. The official attendance was given as 17,645 but I’d have estimated it to have been somewhere between eight and ten thousand. That’s still pretty good when you consider the weather.

Suwon fans.

Jeonbuk were well on top in the opening fifteen minutes, so much so that their ‘in-running’ price of 6/4 seemed exceptional value. Unfortunately the storms must have been affecting the phone signal as I couldn’t get my bet on.

It took half an hour for Jeonbuk to make their superiority count with Eninho’s pace drawing a foul in the box. He tucked the penalty away himself. We were into the final fifteen minutes of the game before Jeonbuk got their second. Lee Dong Gook broke down the right and delivered a perfect pass for Lee Seung Hyun to stroke home.

Jeonbuk fans

Two minutes from time Luiz brought his Jeonbuk career to an end with an easy finish to another counter-attack. His emotional celebration of his goal made it clear that he was on his way and it was as good as confirmed at the end when his team mates tossed him into the air.

That’s all folks.

Luiz was last off the pitch and with it still pissing down we were happy to hang around and see him off. He’s played a big part in Jeonbuk’s success over the last few years and I’ve always felt that they looked a stronger team with him in it. Best of luck in Dubai, fella. You’ll probably get less rain there but I doubt that there will be the same diversity of coffee shops.

LG Twins v Sangmu, Sunday 8th July 2012, 11am

July 11, 2012

I’d been saving a visit to GS Champions Park for a day when I had the time to get there by walking alongside the Han River. It’s probably about three and a half hours from Yeoksam. You head for the Olympic stadium, then follow the river eastwards, crossing somewhere convenient before reaching Champions Park on the North bank.

The plans that I’d had for the day before had been scuppered by the weather forecast and so Jen and I thought we’d give it a trial run by walking eastwards along the south bank of the Han and trying to spot Champions Park from the opposite side of the river. It shouldn’t have been too difficult to find from what I’d noticed on the maps, there are three football pitches and a baseball park, plus a few buildings.

Here’s one I took in January. It was colder then.

It didn’t quite work though and whilst we saw everything from crowded outdoor swimming pools to the ongoing construction of a new bridge we didn’t manage to spot Champions Park. To make matters worse it turned out to be a hotter day than we had expected and after nearly four hours of walking we were both quite badly sunburnt and probably suffering from a touch of sunstroke too.

The following day I scrapped my plans to walk to the game, whilst Jen took it a step further and cancelled all baseball related activities. She did however give me a bit of guidance on dealing with the taxi driver by suggesting that I adding ‘uh’ suffixes to ‘GS’, ‘Champions’ and ‘Park’. It worked a treat, or at least sufficiently well for him to guess what to look for on his satnav and I arrived ten minutes before the scheduled one o’clock start. Unfortunately, as so often happens at these second tier Futures League games, the starting time had been brought forward and the game was already into the sixth innings.

Champions Park

Still, an hour or so of baseball is better than nothing and with it being another red-hot day it might even have been better than three hours of baseball. The small covered area that was being used by spectators was full and so I just took my place on a grassy bank behind the plate.

The shaded seats behind the plate.

There were maybe another seventy or so people watching, the odd family having a picnic, a few who were probably friends and family of the players involved and, as ever, a couple of dozen young girls who were either WAGs or looked as if they had ambitions in that direction.

Whilst there were plenty of LG shirts in the crowd most of the interest was in the Army players. It’s not surprising really as they will all have been successful pro players before their National Service stint. The pitcher Oh Hyun Taek seemed pretty popular, as did the catcher Park Dong Won.

Oh Hyun Taek

One Army fella was deemed good enough to be walked every time he came out to bat. How rubbish is that, never being given a chance to ever hit the ball? Still I suppose it’s a lot better than spending your Sunday on guard duty or marching up and down the parade ground.

The Sangmu dugout.

I haven’t bothered to check the standings for the Futures League but you’d think that both the Army and Police teams would do pretty well. I imagine that it would be quite embarrassing if the players were to lose to the reserve teams of the clubs that they would normally play for.

LG take their turn to bat.

Sangmu had already been a couple of runs ahead when I arrived and they steadily increased their lead as the game went on. As the final innings drew to a close the WAGs and potential WAGs gathered by the walkway to the buses, like mothers at the school gate.

Time to go home.

The final score was 10-6 to the visitors and an hour after arriving I was in a taxi again, heading back to Yeoksam.

Jeonbuk Motors v Sangju Sangmu, Sunday 1st July 2012, 7pm

July 9, 2012

The heavy rain of the previous day had stopped and with Jeonbuk’s game against the Army team not kicking off until the evening Jen and I took the opportunity to go hiking. There are a couple of Provincial Parks near to Jeonju and we got a taxi to Maisan. We could have got a bus to Jinan and then another one to the Maisan park entrance but it seemed like a bit of an arse on. The cabbie didn’t bother with the meter but instead quoted a fare of thirty five thousand won which I think is reasonable for the thirty kilometre or so journey.

Maisan is famous for a couple of peaks that are said to resemble horse ears. They don’t really though. I suppose at a push you could make a case for cat ears but back in the days when people were dishing out the attributes to mountains I’ve no idea if they had any cats in Korea. Perhaps a horse really was the nearest likeness. Or maybe horses had weird ears back then. I should really have taken a photo before we got up close, but I didn’t.

Here’s a stamp I found on the internet instead.

We hadn’t much of a plan worked out before we got there and after looking at the map near the trail entrance we just set off from the North Car Park towards the horse/cat ears. After a decent slog up a wooden staircase we reached the point where the path led to one of the peaks. Unfortunately it was shut and so we had little option but to carry on towards the South Car Park.

A monk talking on his mobile never looks right.

A few minutes further along the path we arrived at Tapsa Temple. Normally I’m not too fussed about temples, most of them have been rebuilt a few times and when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. This one was different though and seemed more like a fairy grotto in a theme park than a temple. It had waterwheels, little huts with Buddhas in them and more stone animal statues than a garden centre. Apparently it had been built at the back end of the nineteen century by some fella who had decided to move to the hills and live on raw pine needles. I suppose he wouldn’t have been spending much time cooking or washing up.

All it lacked was a crazy golf course.

Further along the trail we had the option to veer right and head up to a smaller peak. The path started with a section where you needed to haul yourself up steep wet rock. We decided not to bother and just pushed on towards the South Car Park instead where after a couple of hours hiking we got a taxi back to Jeonju. I’d recommend Maisan when the trail to the top of one of the ears opens again, or when the conditions are a bit drier. There are plenty of restaurants at the South Car Park and the smoked pork ribs looked well worth a try.

Jen needed to be back in Seoul earlier than the 7pm kick-off in the Jeonbuk v Sangju Sangmu game would allow and so she dropped me off at the World Cup Stadium on her way to Iksan station. Jeonbuk are on a bit of a roll at the moment, having won their previous seven matches to move to the top of the table and I wasn’t really expecting the Army team to cause them any problems.

I was quite early going in and so had my pick of the seats in the East Stand. It’s the most popular area and by the time everyone had arrived there were probably three or four thousand people sharing it with me. Unfortunately there were only around a thousand others in the rest of the ground meaning the true attendance was well short of the 8,800 claimed by the stadium announcer.

The travelling Sangju Sangmu support.

Lee Dong Gook was in the starting line-up for Jeonbuk alongside Eninho and Droguett. Luiz Henrique was on the bench whilst Sangmu’s sub goalie Kwon Soon Tae received a warm welcome from the Jeonbuk fans ahead of his planned return in October once his National Service is complete. The visitors managed to deny Jeonbuk for about ten minutes before Chilean striker Hugo Droguett cut in from the right wing and curled a left footed shot into the far corner.

The home fans celebrate the opening goal.

That was the only goal of the first half and with not much worth eating inside the ground I nipped out at the interval for some exceptionally crap fried chicken. You’d think that I would have learned by now that the chicken on sale before the game is never too clever a choice an hour or so later.

Her chicken looked much better.

Twenty minutes from the end Droguett added his and Jeonbuk’s second goal, finishing off a move from about fifteen yards out. As I’d backed the home side to win by at least three, I was hopeful that his effort wouldn’t be the full extent of the scoring. Jeonbuk had a few more chances, notably one where Lee Dong Gook tried to round the keeper but only managed to pick up a yellow card for diving rather than the penalty he felt that he deserved.

With no more goals I lost my bet but Jeonbuk picked up the three points to stay top of the league and extend their winning run to eight games.

Jeonju EM v Paju Citizen, Saturday 30th June 2012, 3pm

July 7, 2012

It’s a while since I’ve been to a football match over here as I spent a fair part of June in Europe. I caught up with family in the UK and squeezed in a trip to the European Championships with my mate Paul. We only saw the one game live, Croatia v Italy in Poznan, but it was enjoyable enough spending a week watching two games each day in a variety of Polish bars.

It’s never dull when the Croatians are in town.

We managed to get some hiking in as well, briefly crossing the border to get to the top of the highest mountain in the Czech Republic, the 1602m Sněžka. I sent my Mam a Czech postcard just for the confusion value as to where I was. Paul managed to tick off the tallest peak in Poland, the 2499m Rysy in the High Tatras. That was a bit much for me but I had a pretty good time wandering around a thousand metres lower in the valleys.

I had my lunch above the snow line.

I got back to Korea just in time for the rain. I’ve worked the seasons out here now. Initially I’d bemoan how quickly Spring came and went with it sometimes only being three days between needing the heating on and having to use the air-conditioning. Really though, when Koreans proudly tell you that they have four seasons what they mean is Winter, Summer, Rainy and Autumn. Winter is cold, Summer is hot, Rainy is wet and Autumn is when it’s just about perfect for hiking. That one is a good couple of months away yet though and before then we are in for a few weeks of heavy rain.

Jen and I try not to let the fact that it’s pissing down spoil our fun if we can help it and so we caught the train to Jeonju on Saturday morning and checked into the Feel Motel near to the bus terminal. We’ve stayed there before and it’s clean, cheap and convenient. Well, convenient if you want to be near the bus terminal that is. It makes a point of advertising that it has a 24 hour porn channel, as if this is something out of the ordinary in a Love Motel. I reckon that there will be more motels without beds than there will be without at least one adult channel. We checked it out and it was so softcore that we couldn’t be certain that it actually was porn. I thought that the invention of the internet would have made that sort of malarkey on the telly redundant, but apparently not.

The Feel Motel, Jeonju.

As it got to the scheduled kick-off time of three o’clock it was still pouring down and we were still in the motel. We decided to get a taxi to Jeonju University where the game was due to take place, drive up to the pitch and after confirming that the match had been cancelled, get the taxi driver to take us to a bar somewhere. It took a bit longer to get there than I’d expected and there was a brief lull in the rain as we arrived. I nipped out of the taxi and was astonished to see that not only was the game in progress, but there were a couple of hundred people watching from the small stand by the side of the pitch.

That’s the university in the background.

It turns out that the Jeonju University grass pitch is actually artificial turf and so able to cope with a decent downpour. Half an hour had gone and the visitors, Paju, were a goal up. We found a couple of seats towards one end of the bus shelter style stand where not too much rain was blowing in and the drips from the roof weren’t too frequent.

Certainly not just fair-weather fans.

It didn’t take Paju long to double their lead with one of their strikers finishing well after catching the home team with a quick break. At half-time the subs seemed to resent having to warm up in the rain and I couldn’t blame them. Whilst it’s quite enjoyable playing in the rain, it’s not quite as good arseing about for ten minutes before going to sit back down again in wet kit.

It was quite a niggly game, not helped by players sliding into tackles from five yards away. You’d think that in those sort of conditions the players would have come to a consensus that it would have been better all round if everyone stayed on their feet.

Jeonju are in white, Paju in red.

Jeonju pulled a goal back a quarter of an hour from the end and the game looked set for an exciting finish. The goal coincided with the rain easing up somewhat though and good as it would have been to see if the visitors could hang on, we took the opportunity to leg it whilst we could. A quick check later confirmed that Jeonju got their equaliser and the game finished two each.

Doosan Bears v Kia Tigers, Thursday 31st May 2012, 6.30pm

July 3, 2012

I’ve recently had a bit of feedback. It went along the lines of  “Your blog’s even crappier than normal these days. Can’t you just rattle on about what you had for your tea rather than all that baseball bollocks?”

Most visitors stumble across this place by way of a Google search, ‘Pitchers of bears’ being one of the current favourites, incidentally. It must be a big disappointment when they find a snap of Dustin Nippert chucking a baseball rather than a photo of a couple of cute Grizzly cubs. By my reckoning I’ve only got about four proper readers and so I suppose I can’t really afford to alienate any of them by chuntering on about first basemen that nobody has heard of at the expense of keeping folks up to date on what I’ve been eating.

Pitchers of bears. Sort of.

Thing is though, a blog of what I had for my tea would generally be pretty dull. Not that Korean sport can’t be dull too, but it’s a different kind of dull. Minority interest dull as opposed to everyday life dull. It’s not as if I’m eating still-wriggling snipped off squid legs every night and there’s only so many times that silkworm grubs are going to be on the menu. Once, I suspect, will remain the final total for that one.

It would have been an even worse blog if I’d been writing it as a kid though as in those days I would eat the same thing every night for around a year at a time. I went from hot dogs to date sandwiches to tinned ravioli. Each fad ended as suddenly as it had started and usually left my parents with a cupboard full of food that nobody else was remotely interested in. I’d have sent me back to the Children’s Home if I had been them.

However, I’m an accommodating sort of fella and I’m happy to advise that Jen and I took a bit of a picnic to the baseball game. We had a couple of baguettes (pre-sliced for us in the shop), some of that Edam with the peppers in it and a few slices of cured ham made from acorn-fed pigs that we’d sneaked in from Spain. The ham, that is, not the pigs. I doubt that Customs would be quite that lax and anyway, we live in a fourth floor apartment and keeping livestock is probably frowned upon. We also took a couple of bottles of red wine. For the connoisseurs amongst you, it was top stuff, 13.5%, no bits in it and with screw tops for convenience.

Right, now that I’ve got you all buzzing like four-year old kids eating Skittles it’s time for the usual dull stuff. Doosan, in fourth place, were taking on second to bottom Kia. However, with the exception of Hanwha who are a bit adrift at the foot of the standings, it’s all pretty tight this season. Doosan had won the first two games of the three-game series but if Kia had taken them then it would have been the visitors who would have been in fourth place instead.

Others were having fried chicken for their tea.

Neither starting pitcher was a big name, Doosan’s Lim Tae-hoon and Kia’s Kim Jin Woo usually tending to be relief pitchers. As this is more of a food blog these days I’ll leave it at that for them. The players that most people had come to see were the big hitters, Choi Jun Suk for the home team and Choi Hee Seop aka ‘Big Choi’ for Kia. Both of them look as if they like their grub. I’d guess that Choi Jun Suk probably snacks on a couple of St Bernards to stave off the hunger pangs between meals.

He can certainly move when he has to though.

By the time we’d unscrewed the cap on the first wine bottle Kia were already two runs up, one of them coming from Big Choi. There were lots of away fans near us in the outfield seats, one of whom had managed to partially disguise his Bobby Charlton-style comb-over by staining his napper in the way that people used to do with hard-boiled eggs at Easter until Cadburys put a stop to that sort of nonsense.

We didn’t have anything else to eat after the picnic and so that was about it really for the evening. We cleared off as soon as the wine ran out and when I checked the score the next day it turned out that Kia had won 4-2.