FC Seoul v Suwon Bluewings, Sunday 4th November 2012, 2pm

Seoul against Suwon is the biggest game in the K-League. On one level it’s a continuation of the rivalry that existed between Anyang and Suwon before Anyang had their team nicked, relocated and re-branded as FC Seoul. On another, it’s a clash between the two teams with the largest support in Korean football and a corporate showdown between Samsung and GS.

Surprisingly, I’d not been to a game between the two clubs so far and after watching a match with only twenty one spectators the previous day I thought I’d get myself along to Sangam Stadium for what would potentially be the biggest crowd I’d seen in Korea outside of those found on a hiking trail in Autumn.

Jen and I took the subway to the World Cup Stadium station on line six and picked up a couple of 14,000 won tickets for the Suwon end. Whilst I like the atmosphere of a fullish ground, I also like a bit of space and thought that there would be plenty of room in the upper tier of the away section.

I was right, every seat in that section was empty. They were empty because the upper tier access had been taped off. The home officials must have decided that with the lower tier being sufficient for Suwon’s two thousand strong travelling support there was no point opening the area above. It was certainly a decision that the cleaners would have welcomed as Suwon fans like to make a bit of a mess. As the teams came out thousands of pieces of coloured card were thrown in the air. Some kids made a point of hanging on to them to take home to draw on, but most were more than happy to launch them skywards.

Suwon fans making a mess.

The empty upper tier above me wasn’t the only part of the ground with plenty of spare seats. The west stand to my left had only a couple of thousand fans in the lower tier and an almost empty upper section. The north stand that the home supporters favour was busy in the middle downstairs, but the wings and upper tier were virtually deserted.

The west and north stands.

The east stand had maybe ten thousand people in it, mainly in the lower tier, but even when a section of crowd looks reasonably full from a distance you just know that a significant proportion of the seats will have been commandeered for coats, boxes of fried chicken or manbags. I’d estimate that the game kicked-off in front of fifteen thousand fans and as the latecomers arrived probably reached a peak of twenty thousand, maybe twenty five thousand absolute max.

The north and slightly busier east stand.

It was disappointing really as I’d been hoping for the place to be heaving. The attendance was announced as 40,510 which was ludicrous. You could have fitted the entire crowd into the east stand if necessary.

As far as the football went, I thought Suwon were the better team in the first half and they deservedly took the lead mid-way through it when Lee Sang Ho squeezed home a shot that almost hit both posts before creeping over the line. We got another flurry of cards thrown in to the air by the jubilant visiting support.

One – nil to the visitors.

Suwon’s momentum stalled a little just before the break when defender Yang San Min picked up a second yellow. It sparked the usual protests but I was down the other end and didn’t see it well enough to have an opinion either way.

Suwon go a man down.

Seoul came more into the game in the second half, although it didn’t look like they were going to score. Their fans weren’t discouraged by being a goal down and they kept up their support throughout. There were a group togged up in black that spent most of the game with their backs to the pitch leading their fellow supporters in the various chants. Each to their own, but I wouldn’t want to have to watch the highlights when I got home to find out what had gone on at a match I’d been to.

FC Seoul fans.

Seoul did eventually make the breakthrough when with four minutes to go substitute Jung Jo Gook timed his run perfectly to beat the offside trap and lift the ball over the advancing keeper.

Initially the Suwon players didn’t have too many complaints about the flag staying down but once someone had seen a replay on either the big screen or on a monitor in the dugout they were outraged. At one point it looked as if their coach was calling them off the field in protest at the perceived injustice. Eventually order was restored and the remaining minutes were played out for a one-all draw.

Despite getting it right the linesman got plenty of slaver.

The single point for Seoul allowed Jeonbuk to close the gap in the title race to five points. It seems a lot but those two teams still have to play each other at Sangam before the season is out. Jeonbuk won’t bring as many fans as Suwon did, so it will probably be a sub-twenty thousand crowd. There’ll be  be a lot less sweeping up afterwards though.

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