The final round of matches in the Challengers League took place this weekend and in a perfect piece of scheduling the two worst teams in the league took each other on. Seoul Martyrs have lost every game this season bar one, a draw against Jeonju EM back in August. They have conceded double figures in a game four times, the highlight of which was a seventeen nil thrashing by Pocheon a fortnight ago.
Hosts Namyangju have fared a little better with two wins and six points to their name, the last of which came seventeen games ago in the reverse fixture with today’s visitors. As a form guide, Pocheon only managed to put twelve past Namyangju when they met so I suppose we could say that a home victory was the most likely of the outcomes for this final game of the season.
When titans such as these collide you have to be there and so I caught the subway to Yangjeong. If you look out of the right-hand side of the carriage window as you approach Yangjeong you can see the floodlights of the stadium at Namyangju Sports Complex. I just about managed to keep them in sight until the train came to a halt.
Through the train window.
If you come out of exit two, you should be able to see the floodlights in the distance. There’s a map at the exit that helps as well. All you have to do is follow the general direction of the main road, keeping one eye on the stadium and the other on the traffic.
It looks easy enough.
It’s quite a scenic route in a way, passing a few farms, but there are sections where the path runs out and you have to walk along the edge of a busy road. After about twenty minutes you need to veer off to the left. By this time you will probably have lost sight of the floodlights but the stadium isn’t too far away and before long it comes fully into view.
There are a couple of other pitches nearby and I briefly paused to watch a game on one of them before making my way through the main gates of the Namyangju Stadium. There weren’t many people there and I wondered for a moment if the game had just finished. I checked with the fourth official who was standing at pitchside and he confirmed that it would definitely start as scheduled in five minutes time at two o’clock.
The stand with the most roof.
The stadium is quite nicely situated in a wooded area, with some hills in the background. I sat in the main stand which has seating for about five hundred people whilst on the opposite side of the pitch a partially covered stand that curves around a little way towards each goal has the potential to hold another couple of thousand fans.
Unfortunately the crowd was nowhere near the capacity of the ground and as the sides kicked off I counted twenty one people in attendance. There might have been twenty two depending upon whether or not a bundle to my left was a sleeping baby or someones shopping. Namyangju were in blue and black stripes, whilst Seoul were in red. The artificial pitch was covered in leaves, presumably real, but I didn’t check.
Five minutes into the game Seoul Martyrs striker Shin Wyun Seop took the ball on his chest with his back to goal, let it drop and then turned and drilled the half-volley into the net from the edge of the box. Bloody hell. One nil to the Martyrs. The young girls to my right shrieked with delight as Mr. Shin grinned all the way back to his own half.
He’s one happy fella.
A moment later the same bloke broke away and should have put the visitors two up. The excitement must have been too much for him though and he screwed his shot wide.
As expected, Seoul’s lead didn’t last long. Namyangju won a corner when a shot from outside of the box smacked the Martyrs keeper in the chops before deflecting wide. In the mayhem that followed the corner Park Young Men was able to blast home the equaliser from a yard out. I know that doesn’t sound like a real name but I’m assured that it is. As an after note Jen has students named Dong Suk and Bum Suk, so I suppose being called Young Men isn’t as bad as it could have been.
The third goal came after ten minutes when Namyangju’s Kim Jong Chul lobbed the keeper to put his side in front. Within a minute Namyangju had pulled another goal ahead when Park Young Men got his second of the game toe-bopping one home from about six yards out.
Seoul didn’t seem daunted by the Namyangju flurry of goals and went straight down the other end and made it five goals in the first twelve minutes as Kim Beom Soo tucked away a rebound from a parried shot. By my reckoning that was three – two to Namyangju.
It had been hard work keeping up with the scoring, a problem that seemed to be shared by the KFA representative sat behind me. He made a point of popping down to pitchside every now and then to query something with the fourth official. There was that much stuff going on that I’m surprised he risked turning his back on the game for a moment to return to his seat.
Stuff going on.
We had a brief respite from the goalscoring for ten minutes or so before a dummy from Kim Jong Chul allowed Park Young Men to blast home from ten yards and put Namyangju four – two ahead. The pressure of not being ten goals or more down must have been getting to both sets of players as we then had a quick bout of fisticuffs. Most of the outfield players got involved in the pushing and shoving and there were a few punches thrown. Both linesmen weighed in to help break things up and eventually two lads got a telling off and another two picked up a yellow card each.
Get into ’em.
As half time neared the home side brought a sub on. He didn’t get on the pitch as quickly as he would have liked as he had to spend time sticking a number on the back of his shirt with white tape. I’m not sure if he replaced the player wearing number six and had to wear his shirt or whether it was just spare that week. Either way, he had to stick a three on next to the six before he could take the field. He also had to make a smaller number for his shorts which I thought was a little over the top. Whilst I usually get annoyed when I see subs only putting on their shirts or shin pads when called upon, this lad had my sympathy.
Finally ready for action.
There was still some more excitement to come before half-time when Lee Hyun Gi turned his marker and pulled one back for Seoul. It was fortunate timing as the Seoul Ultra had just arrived with his girlfriend and his drum. I don’t know if he’d slept in, got the kick-off time wrong or had struggled to drag himself away from the game between a couple of church sides on the nearby pitch. Whatever, he had missed a great first half.
Sonny and Cher.
A local fella came over to me at half-time and as a consequence of our somewhat limited conversation seemed to get it into his head that I was a scout for Middlesbrough. He disappeared for a while before returning to tell me that his brother was the full back for Namyangju and to give me four chocolate brazil nuts. Maybe he knows how little the Boro has to spend these days.
The second half started off a lot calmer than the first and it was twenty minutes before we got another goal. The ball bobbed around for a while in the Namyangju box before Seoul Martyrs centre half Jang Gyun Hwan hooked it home to make it four each.
Seoul kept it level until fifteen minutes from time. After being brought down on the edge of the box, Namyangju’s Kim Jong Chul took the direct free-kick himself and curled it around the wall and past the keeper who may not have been giving matters his full attention.
Kim Jong Chul takes a break from scoring goals to contest a header.
It looked at that stage as if Martyrs were destined for another defeat but they somehow managed to turn it around in the final few minutes. Han Gyun Soo lobbed the keeper from a tight angle to make it five each and then when the Namyangju keeper flapped at and missed an inswinging corner Jang Gyun Hwan bundled the ball over the line at the back post to put Martyrs six-five ahead. The ultra was ecstatic, as were the shrieking girls.
Ha. 6-5 to the Martyrs.
In injury time the hosts had a chance to level with another direct free kick from twenty yards out. This time Seoul weren’t going to take a chance on their keeper not watching properly and positioned two men on the goal-line to help him out. This, of course, meant that Namyangju could have a couple of players standing directly in front of the keeper. In the end though, the ball didn’t clear the wall and the ref blew for full time.
The Seoul celebrations at their first win of the season seemed a bit muted. I’d have been turning cartwheels if I’d have been them. If I could turn cartwheels that is. The reason was revealed the next day when I looked the game up online and discovered that the score was listed as six all. Now I’m not the most attentive of blokes, particularly when noticing a new hairdo or frock is concerned, but on this occasion I really was watching closely. My theory is that between them, the Korean FA representative, the ref and the fourth official messed things up.
“Shall we just call it a draw?”
They had been conferring all through the game and I think at some point a disallowed Namyangju goal had somehow been counted. If the teams had been told the incorrect score before the end then that would explain their reaction at the full-time whistle.
As both teams are used to conceding double figures I doubt they have much appetite for keeping score themselves and with so many goals in quick succession I couldn’t blame anyone for getting mixed up.
So, the record books will show that both teams added to their season’s points tally with a draw, Namyangju moving onto seven points and Martyrs doubling their total to finish with two.