After watching the match between Jungnang Mustang Chorus and Namyangju United earlier in the afternoon I crossed Seoul on the subway, arriving at Geumchon station just before five o’clock. The game wasn’t scheduled to kick off until seven and so I thought I might as well just walk to the stadium. It’s easy enough, you come out of exit one, cross the road and continue in the same direction along the main road for about twenty minutes.
When the road starts to bear around to the left, take the immediate left down a side street and you’ll stumble across the ground sooner or later.
Paju is only a few miles from the border with North Korea and so I’d expected to see quite a sizeable military contingent. I was wrong in my assumption though and the only uniformed presence I spotted were these two old fellas drinking soju outside of a convenience store. If the North are ever going to make their move, I’d suggest targeting Paju on a Saturday tea-time.
As I got close to the ground I noticed that the floodlights were already on. No real surprise there as the sun was starting to go down and they would need to be on well before kick-off. What was more unexpected was that I could hear shouts, chants and someone blowing a whistle. Oh dear. Either the police were breaking up a demonstration or the game was already underway.There was a gate open behind one of the goals and I walked in to find the match in progress. The scoreboard was showing thirty-seven minutes had been played, hopefully of the first half.
The scoreboard was also showing that the game was level at a goal each. As I hadn’t seen either of them I’ll assume that Paju’s was a screamer from outside the box, similar to the one Emerson scored against Sunderland, whilst Cheonan’s effort was just like Terry Cochrane’s overhead kick against Swansea. Only better.
The stadium is a fairly typical example of a Korean multi-purpose ground. A mainly open bowl with limited covering down one side and a running track separating the spectators from the pitch. An interesting feature of this ground though was the view of some graves up on the hillside behind the goal to my left. It also has a caldron for a flame, which would come in very handy should Jacques Rogge ever decide that Paju would be an ideal choice for staging the Olympics.
Paju were in green shirts whilst Cheonan were in orange. I’d estimate that there were probably around a hundred people there which isn’t bad for a game that had kicked off two hours earlier than advertised. Initially I’d thought that the two sets of half a dozen ultras a hundred yards apart were each supporting Cheonan until I eventually realised that the only home fan to wear any colours had decided to wear his orange away shirt. His green shirt must have been in the wash.
A few minutes after I’d arrived the ref blew for half-time rather than full-time and I was able to sit back, crack open the first can of the day and await the second half. Paju have had a decent first season in the Challengers League but are just starting to slip a bit. I saw them drop two points away at bottom of their section Goyang a few weeks ago and if they really wanted to remain in contention for a play-off spot then they needed to beat a Cheonan team that had nothing to play for.
Both teams had their chances early in the second half, but it was Paju who managed to take the lead on the hour. Cheonan failed to get anywhere near a corner and Kim Su Won headed the home side in front.
Cheonan were still squabbling amongst themselves a couple or minutes later and Paju quickly grabbed a third goal. The sudden capitulation seemed too much for the visitors and their left back was sent off soon after. He stomped off, throwing his shirt down Keegan-style.
The ten men were able to keep the home side at bay for the next quarter of an hour but then Yoon Seok Hyun went through the back of a Paju player and picked up his second yellow to reduce his side to nine men. He was a bit more reluctant to leave the field than his team-mate had been but eventually left after angrily booting a water bottle into orbit.
In the re-organisation that followed, the lad who got subbed showed a similar level of frustration at having to leave the field and he too launched one of the water bottles.
With seven minutes to go Paju striker Yang Hyo Jik somehow managed to nip between a Cheonan defender and the keeper to stroke the ball home and make it 4-1. The beaten keeper Woo Tae Shik must have said something to the ref and he got a straight red for his trouble. Cheonan didn’t have a substitute keeper and so outfield player Kwon Tae Joon had to go in goal. Unfortunately Woo Tae Shik had buggered off with his goalie top and in the absence of a spare, Kwon had to make do with a training bib.
It was still 4-1 when we reached the ninety minute mark and with Cheonan’s remaining eight men obviously well beaten it seemed a bit mean for the ref to add another five minutes on. Paju took the piss a little and missed an absolute sitter before a three against one break led to their fifth. That was enough for the ref to put Cheonan out of their misery and call a halt.
The win moved Paju up the table from fourth to third and kept their play-off hopes alive whilst Cheonan remained second from bottom.