This was my second attempt to see a Chungju Hummel home game. I’d turned up for their fixture with Yongin City two years ago and despite the grass being cut, the nets being up and a large banner outside the ground advertising the match, it had been moved at the last minute to someone‘s back garden on the outskirts of the town.
That sort of thing is fairly common in Korean football, particularly in the lower divisions. All you can do is check as many sources as possible and hope it works out. If it doesn’t, so be it. Jen and I had quite ambitious plans for the weekend, including hiking in the nearby Sobaeksan National Park, but it’s usually better if we see the game as well rather than stare through the gates of an empty stadium.
The intention was to use Danyang as a base, visit the Gosu Caves on the Saturday and then hike the following day, after nipping in and out of Chungju for the match via the ferry that chugs up and down the lake between the two towns. Easy really.
At eight o’clock on Saturday morning we caught the bus from Dong Seoul to Danyang. It took a bit longer than it should have done, but it’s the holiday season and that’s how it works. Three hours later we were in Danyang and wandering around looking for a hotel.
It was ridiculously hot and after deciding that I’d better buy myself a hat to try to cut down the chances of getting sunstroke we headed into an indoor market. Whilst most of the stalls sold the usual mix of tat, tat and more tat, one aisle sold nothing but garlic. I could probably describe it more thoroughly, but that’s what photos are for.
We found a barber’s shop that sold hats, which I suppose doesn‘t reflect all that well on their confidence in their haircutting abilities. Still, I was due a trim and so we went in. There was nobody around and just as it looked like I’d have to leave without a haircut or a hat, a woman came scurrying up from a shop a few doors along.
Sometimes I think it’s useful that I can‘t understand Korean and that was probably the case on this occasion. Jen told me afterwards that it wasn‘t the woman’s shop but after a brief shouted conversation with someone further along the street, she had volunteered to cut my hair anyway. Wonderful.
I knew none of this as I settled into the chair and after I’d mimed having my head shaved, she got to work. Usually I’ll be asked which guard should go on the clippers and I’ll generally go for the 3mm one. This time though, the fake barberess just got stuck straight in with the unguarded clippers. Once you’ve got that first strip of baldness then you just have to go with it. I bought a hat on the way out, as I imagine most of her customers do.
We eventually found a hotel that didn‘t mind us checking in at lunchtime, but abandoned our plan to visit the Gosu caves as it was just too hot to be walking around. We did visit them the next day and they were crap. Nowhere near as cold as you want caves to be in the summer and despite going early in the morning we slowly shuffled along in lines like people filing past the Queen Mother’s coffin.
The next part of the plan was to get the ferry to Chungju and it sort of went ok. We spent twenty minutes in a taxi getting to the ferry terminal and then just before we arrived we spotted a road sign stating that Chungju was a further 52km away. It had only been about an inch on the map. A map that I now recognise as having a scale of about 70km to the inch.
The boat trip was worth doing though despite us being behind glass. It took an hour and twenty minutes to get to Chungju and we passed through some spectacular scenery. I think most of the people on the boat had probably arrived at the ferry terminal in their own cars and were doing a round trip that didn’t necessarily involve visiting either Danyang or Chungju.
On arrival at Chungju Ferry Terminal we shared a taxi into town with an elderly Korean couple. The meter fare came to 16,000 won and the robber of a taxi driver took 13,000 won from both them and us.
All of the changes to the plans meant that we arrived at the stadium a couple of hours before kick-off. No problem, we had a couple of bottles of wine with us and there is a park next door to Chungju’s ground that I’d drank in last time I’d been there. Or at least I’d thought it was a park. Jen helpfully pointed out that it was actually a school for ten to fourteen year old girls and maybe not the best place to sit slugging back cabernet sauvignon. You’ve got to be somewhere though and with it having benches it was worth the risk of arrest.
As kick-off approached we headed into the stadium. Chungju were wearing Jeonbuk strips and Changwon were near enough AC Milan. The pretend Jeonbuk even had a number twenty, Lee Gon Hue, playing up front for them.
There were about two hundred fans watching. There are nearly always two hundred fans. Perhaps it’s a National League rule. I saw some that might have been from Changwon but then again they might just have wandered in for a sit-down and a fag.
Changwon looked the better side early on but as we reached half-time it was still goalless. Jen went for more drink and some fried chicken and came back with a selection of things on sticks, most of which the local kids seemed happy to take off our hands.
There was more good defending in the second half and the game finished goalless. As we were far too late for a return ferry journey or a bus, we took an hour long taxi ride back to our hotel in Danyang. On reflection, I think that if you are going to watch a game in Chungju then it’s probably best to stay slightly closer than seventy kilometres away.