Chunnam Yeonggwang v Cheongju Jikji, Saturday 16th March 2013, 3pm

0 - yeonggwang opening shot

Yeonggwang is a one-horse town on the south-west coast of Korea, famous in certain circles for being the place to get yellow croaker fish. Normally that wouldn’t be enough to make it worth a visit but when they’ve got a fourth division football team as well then it becomes a much more appealing prospect.

The easiest way to get to Yeonggwang from Seoul is to take a bus from Central City and so that’s exactly what we did. It takes around three hours and forty minutes, with a stop halfway at a service station. The toilets were so busy that I saw an old bloke remove a bag that was covering an out-of–order urinal so that he could slash in it. As his piss flowed on to the floor, a queue formed behind him.

Once at Yeonggwang Jen and I thought we’d have the famed croaker for lunch. They call it Gulbi in Korea and it seemed to be all over town, or at least the dried take-away fish were.  Yet, whilst nobody would have to entertain the notion of going home without the obligatory Gulbi gift box set, there didn’t seem to be many restaurants actually serving it to eat.

Dried Gulbi attracting flies.

Dried Gulbi attracting flies.

After wandering past a market that could easily have been created by the tourist board to show what people looked like a hundred years ago, we eventually found a place that offered Gulbi stew. It was just like seafood stew but with the decent stuff replaced by a couple of croakers, complete with their guts. Marvellous. I removed as much of the innards as my chopstick skills allowed before realising that once gutted there’s not much more left than the sort of skeleton you’d see on an episode of Top Cat.

So, there’s your restaurant review, or at least it would be if I’d told you where we’d eaten. Time for the game. Chunnam Yeonggwang were taking on Cheongju Jikji in what would have been a third tier game last season but due to the new second division of the K-League was now effectively a fourth division tie. We could have walked to the ground, having seen it on the way into town but with it being uphill we took a five-minute cab ride.

The stadium.

The stadium.

There were a few artificial pitches outside of the stadium which looked to be a handy asset for the local community, particularly those who were using them to take their dog for a shite. The main stadium was quite impressive. It had a curvy stand along one side with a grassy embankment along the other three, designed, perhaps, with the dog walkers in mind.

Yeonggwang were in red and yellow stripes with what I think is called a yoke over their shoulders. In blue. If that wasn’t bad enough, their sleeves were solid red and the shirt was complemented with black shorts and white socks. It was as if someone had decided that a colouring competition for five-year olds was the most appropriate way of designing the strip. Cheongju were in a much simpler blue and navy effort. Both sides struggled with the wind but did their best to keep the ball on the ground and build from the back.

The main curvy stand.

The main curvy stand.

Twenty four minutes in the visitors took the lead when the ball was pulled back across the goal to allow Cheongju captain Kim Hyung Somethingorother to sidefoot the ball home from ten yards out. That was it for the first half.

At the break we were entertained with volleyball on the big screen behind the goal. My club Middlesbrough are thinking about installing a big screen at our ground this summer and it’s hard to imagine that after all those years in the Premiership we don’t already have something that fourth division teams in Korea tend to have as a matter of course. I doubt we’ll get half-time televised sport on the screen at the Boro though, it will be all adverts from people wanting to buy your Granny’s gold earrings or offering you a payday loan.

The curvy main stand again.

The curvy main stand again.

Cheongju had plenty of opportunities in the second half to increase their lead, the best chance coming with a quarter of an hour remaining. One of their strikers was put clear through after the home defence got confused by someone else moving out from an offside but not active position. The lad with the chance somehow managed to pull his shot wide from five yards out.

Random action photo.

Random action photo.

The miss didn’t matter though as a couple of minutes later Cheongju doubled their lead. One of the home centre-halves tried to cut out a ball played into the box but only succeeded in blasting it into his own net from a fair distance out. It would have been a great finish at the other end as I doubt the keeper even saw the ball flash by him.

That was it, two-nil to the visitors. We walked back into town and found a hotel. You’ve got to be somewhere and if it’s just for one night then that place might as well be Yeonggwang.

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