Jen and I had been over to Gangneung the previous day for some hiking and football. On the Sunday morning she caught the bus back to Seoul whilst I got one to Icheon to watch the FA Cup second round tie between fourth division Icheon Citizen and third division Busan Transportation.
I can’t help but be impressed by the bus system in Korea. The fares are cheap, the seats comfortable and best of all the network covers a remarkable variety of direct routes between places that I can’t see why people would ever want to go from one to the other. If only the passengers could avoid shouting at each other all the way through the journey it would be pretty much perfect.
Two hours after setting off I was in Icheon and with a further two hours to spare until kick-off I decided to walk to the stadium. I’d found it on the map on my phone and so just used the blue dot GPS thing to get myself there. I had to cross a few fields where I watched farmers doing all the stuff that farmers do and I was barked at by half a dozen dogs or so. Once I got back into civilisation I picked up a few cans of beer before squeezing in an eight minute haircut at a salon that seemed more like a social club for the town’s pensioners than a place where much actual barbering went on.
It got even better at the end of the hour and a half walk as I stumbled across games taking place on the two Icheon practice pitches next to the stadium and I had a look at those for a while before making my way in through the main entrance.
The match had already kicked off by the time I took my seat, with Icheon in blue and Busan in their away kit of red and black stripes. I had a quick tot up of the crowd and estimated that there were about a hundred there. It didn’t surprise me that there were more fans watching the games outside as those local tournaments always seem to attract a decent following.
Icheon took the lead from a penalty inside the opening ten minutes. I missed the foul but the home players seemed pissed off that the Busan defender responsible escaped with just a yellow card.
The rest of the first half was fairly scrappy, with both teams happy enough to lump the ball forward and fight for possession. Busan drew level bang on half time with a glancing header. There wasn’t even time for Icheon to kick-off again.
In the second half both teams continued to miss chances. One in particular from a Busan striker almost had my beer coming out of my nose as he somehow contrived to put his shot over the bar from close range.
Ten minutes from time, Icheon nicked the win and the place in the third round when a decent through ball was finally capitalised upon and blasted home.
I got lucky on the way out and managed to flag a bus down for the ride back to the terminal where it was easy enough to pick up a bus for Dong Seoul.