If you like watching sport then Goyang would be a pretty good place to live. Whilst they don’t have a K-League team or a top-tier baseball side, they’ve got football teams in the National and Challengers leagues and an independent baseball team that takes on the KBO reserve teams in the Futures League. If that’s not enough there are also basketball and ice hockey teams.
The only one of all of those that I hadn’t yet seen was Goyang FC of the third-tier Challengers League. I had been to their ground before though, having briefly watched a few minutes of a Sunday League match after an ice hockey game at the SPART complex a couple of years ago.
Goyang’s ground is easy enough to get to. You take Subway Line 3 to Wondang and then come out of Exit 5, turn right in the direction of City Hall, cross the road and keep on in the same direction. You’ll pass a group of six old biddies sat on some benches.It’s probably ok to use them as a landmark as I suspect that they are always there. Not necessarily the same ones as it’s a squad game these days, but day or night there will be half a dozen of them.
After about three hundred yards you turn left, in the direction of Seongsa 2(i) – dong Community Service Center, follow the road up a hill passing a few shops and restaurants. When you’ve walked for around another one hundred and fifty yards you turn right at apartment block 505 and then wander down that tree-lined road until you see the ground on your left.
There are stands down the two longer sides of the plastic pitch, one with a roof, but nothing behind either of the goals. I made a rough count of the seats and I’d estimate a capacity of two thousand, five hundred which was probably two thousand, four hundred more than was necessary. The main stand was home to about eighty people, many of them families where the small children spent most of the game hitting the even smaller children.
The opposite stand was home to the Ultras. Or in the case of Goyang, the Ultra. In a country were people rarely see any merit in an activity unless large numbers of others are doing it too, Goyang gloriously had one fan. He did his bit though and the only times that he stopped singing all afternoon were whenever he briefly paused to berate the referee.
Paju initially weren‘t much better in terms of support, with only two supporters having made it by kick-off time. I liked the idea that both sets of fans (can you call one fan a set?) could have taunted the other with the traditional “You should have come in a taxi“ when in reality they could have shared the cab and still had room to offer a lift to the next bloke at the rank. Paju spoilt things a little when another four fans turned up ten minutes into the game.
Paju were in luminous green shirts, whilst Goyang were wearing what looked like American referee shirts with thin black and white stripes. Goyang are bottom of their section of the league and with the visitors pushing for a play-off spot an away win seemed the most likely outcome.
Both teams kept it tight in the opening half hour and neither keeper got his knees dirty. Although I suppose on a plastic pitch that would have been unlikely no matter how much diving around they might have done. The closest we came to a goal was when a Goyang free-kick bounced harmlessly through to the Paju keeper who whilst attempting to catch it just under the crossbar caught one of his feet in the netting behind him and nearly conceded the sort of goal that would have made every ’cock-up’ video going.
With ten minutes to go to the break, Paju brought on a couple of subs. It’s always embarrassing to be taken off in the first half if you aren‘t limping and one fella in particular, Lee Jae Hyung, threw a right strop, hurling bits of tape to the ground and whipping off his shirt long before he reached the changing room. I wondered if the Paju coach had been expecting an easy victory and had taken the opportunity to play a couple of fringe players before being forced to revert to Plan A when they were unable to make the breakthrough.
Mean as it seemed though, it worked, and before the subbed players could even have found time to key the side of their manager’s car Paju were ahead. Centre half Jung Sung Jo had come upfield for a set piece and although the move broke down the ball fell nicely for him and his shot from fifteen yards was deflected into the net.
At half-time the Paju players went to the dressing room but the Goyang coach sat his players down by the touch-line and held his team-talk on the pitch. He didn‘t seem angry with them, I think it was more a case of him just enjoying the good weather. He used three water bottles to demonstrate positioning and movement, the gist of it seeming to be that one player should run in-between two of the opposition, drawing them both with him.
The opening twenty minutes of the second half were as cagey as those of the first with both sides passing the ball well but not creating much in the way of chances. I didn‘t notice too many occasions where a Goyang player was able to draw two of the opposition to him. It’s possibly harder to do with real people than it appears to be with water bottles.
The game came to life in the last ten minutes. Goyang captain Lee Sang Ho did fantastically well to keep a wayward shot in play, he cut in towards goal and pulled the ball back for Park Joo Young who somehow put his shot both high and wide when it would have been far easier to score. It wasn‘t quite as bad as Kanu’s against the Boro a few years ago but he should have scored.
A couple of minutes later Park Joo Young had a shot deflected past the post, he should have scored from that one too. It didn‘t matter much though as shortly afterwards the Goyang pressure paid off when Lee Sang Ho curled a shot home from the edge of the box to make it one each.
We then had a few minutes of end to end action as both teams chased a winner. Goyang had the ball in the net at one point but it was disallowed for pushing. As we entered injury time Goyang broke clear but the Paju keeper, Jang Bum Guk, managed to dash from his goal and clatter the striker, knacking one of his own knees as he did it. After a few minutes of treatment that seemed to consist mainly of someone twisting his leg to check that it was still attached to his torso, he limped off and was replaced by the sub goalie Yu Jung Hoon.
At the other end Paju could have won it with the final kick of the game when a flick on from a corner was skied over the bar from inside the six yard box. That was it though, two points dropped for Paju but a point gained for Goyang. All that was left was for both teams to jog over to their supporter(s) and show their appreciation.