Yeungnam University v Kwangwoon University, Saturday 9th March 2013, 3pm

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I’d missed the opening weekend of the domestic season in Korea, a last minute trip to Oman stopping me from taking in a fourth division game in Gyeongju and Jeonbuk’s trip to Daejeon. That’s life I suppose. Fortunately I didn’t need to stay in Muscat for a second weekend and that left me free to get to a couple of Korean FA Cup First Round games.

The format of the competition seems to change every year. This season we have a total of sixty four teams taking part, with the First Round consisting of twelve of the eighteen fourth division sides and twenty of the universities. It seemed a little mean to deny the six crappiest Challengers League teams a crack at the cup, although in reality the university sides tend to be of a higher standard than the fourth tier and it may have been that the Korean FA were anxious to avoid the sort of scorelines that would suggest that the teams had played rugby rather than football.

Jen and I caught the KTX to Dongdaegu and then took the subway to Yeungnam University. It’s the final stop on one of the two Daegu lines, the green one I think, and it takes around half an hour to get there. Conveniently the subway station is called Yeungnam University and there’s a pitch shown on the map inside the station, close to exit four.

Sure enough, the pitch was just where the map suggested. What the map didn’t show was that there was more sand than grass and there were no lines marked. It looked a long time since anyone would have played at that venue, or at least anyone who would worry about having a foot disappear down a pothole.

The old grass pitch.

The old grass pitch.

It was a shame really as the old ground had a certain charm to it. The minimal rows of seating would have been more than enough and the ‘main stand’ reminded me of a cricket pavilion. Jen spoke to a fella who looked like he might know what was going on and he directed us around the corner to the artificial pitch ten minutes walk away.

There weren’t any permanent seats alongside the artificial pitch, just a large pile of folding chairs. That was sufficient though for the thirty or so spectators, most of whom were probably there to watch their offspring play.

Those tents were for the players and officials, rather than spectators.

Those tents were for the players and officials, rather than spectators.

Yeungnam were dressed up as Brighton, whilst Kwangwoon sported a Burnleyesque claret and blue effort. The conditions weren’t ideal as we started with a strong wind blowing towards the Yeungnam goal. Kwangwoon had the better of the opening exchanges but both teams were keeping the ball on the ground and passing it well.

The visitors had the best chance of the half, hitting the post five minutes before the break.

Yeungnam in blue, Kwangwoon in maroon.

Yeungnam in blue, Kwangwoon in maroon.

Yeungnam picked up a bit after the interval although perhaps this was due to it being their turn to have the wind behind them. Whenever there was a lull in play I could occupy myself watching the old fellas walking around the track or the young girl being taught by her grandad to ride a bike. We had a bloke on a scooter doing a couple of laps as if he were Barry Sheene and then equally memorably someone galloping a circuit on a horse.

As the clock ticked down to full-time I started to worry a little about running out of beer. I’d paced myself perfectly for ninety minutes but the prospect of extra time and penalties was something that I hadn’t allowed for.

That's about a quarter of the crowd.

That’s about a quarter of the crowd.

There were less than ten minutes and half a can remaining when Kwangwoon made the breakthrough. Their right back made a perfectly timed overlapping run that took him past the opposing full back and left him clean through on the advancing keeper. He beat the goalie to the ball and clipped it past him to open the scoring.

Yeungnam understandably showed a touch more urgency in the closing minutes but couldn’t take their chances. Kwangwoon made it safe with the last kick of the game, one of their strikers controlling the ball eight yards out and turning well before stroking the ball home.

The next round sees the slightly bigger guns of the third tier National League and the new second tier K-League join the competition. So, I imagine that’ll be more chairs and fewer horses. Probably.

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