In South Korea, I’m Kind of a Big Deal

So, right after I wrote the last post, I dropped my computer at home, got my camera and headed out to the soccer game. I got there just about an hour before kick-off, so I had plenty of time to walk around and explore.

Approaching the stadium from the road behind it.

How pretty. Just call me Diane Arbus. If you know who that is, ten cool points.

Same fountain area. No, those aren’t real birds. When you’re going to a sporting event in America, you don’t really expect to see any beautiful scenery, but it’s normal here, I guess.

I really like the tree in the background. Very Tim Burton-esque.

The complex from the road out front. In a country as small as this one, I think having a vast open area of nothing is just kind of a big pissing contest. “SEE? We’ve got so much money we just don’t give A FUCK!”

A proper shot of the stadium from the front.

Taken from the top of the stadium. The thing is a giant complex with lots of tennis courts, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, volleyball courts, etc… This is just a small portion. It seemed like a pretty happening place to be for the physically active minded Koreans on a Saturday evening.

Here’s the stadium. Capacity is only 30,000. So about 30% of what Ohio Stadium can hold. Tiny in comparison. Also, soccer fields look a lot bigger on TV.

The flag in the foreground is the official National League flag for the soccer league. Now, when we hear “national league” we assume it’s professional, but these guys are more like the Columbus Clippers of South Korean soccer. In the background, I’m not sure of the left flag, but the middle flag is South Korea’s flag and then Cheonan’s flag.

Kind of an Olympic torch thing at the north end of the stadium.

Pretty lame scoreboard. Just about 40 minutes before kick-off.

West side of the stadium. Absolutely no one is here yet.

The valiant Cheonan City FC warming up.

The dirty, mildly retarded Incheon Korail. They’re actually sponsored and mascoted by a train. Even their uniform colors match the trains. How lame.

Pic from my seat. Exact middle of the field, second deck. Not bad for a free ticket. Technically, I didn’t even get a ticket. Just walked in. By the time the game started, there were a couple hundred people there. Not a super rowdy environment, but about what I expected. BBQ. Even the pro league soccer stadiums don’t fill up. Here baseball is the crazy passionate sport.

Mr. Moon came out early. I’ve never understood why you sometimes see the moon during the day, and being an English major, I probably never will.

The Cheonan City FC flag.


Here’s the scoreboard during pre-game intros. This is Cheonan’s “playing coach”. I have no idea if that means the coach or some kind of physical trainer or what.

This is the die hard Cheonan City FC cheering section at the north end of the stadium. After each Cheonan player/coach was announced they’d scream their name and beat on their drums. I’m thinking of sitting there next time.

Pre-game ceremonies. The guys in maroon, yellow and gray unis are the Cheonan City FC. All white unis are the anencephallic (look it up) Incheon Korail. The kids are just random kids in taekwondo unis. At least some were from Incheon.

The cheering section at its largest. I never saw them actually throw the toilet paper. I spent more time watching the game than them though. Unfortunately, taking this picture I missed kick-off.

Disaster strikes four minutes in. A sloppy pass back to the keeper leads to an Incheon goal.

Half an hour later, an Incheon striker streaked up the sideline, got past the defense and blooped one right over the keeper’s head when he came out of the box. Down 0-2 at half, it’s looking bleak for the fighting Cheonan City FC.

At halftime I bought this candy bar. I’ve seen it everywhere, so I gave it a try. Nothing special, but for a dollar it’s about what you’d expect. BBQ. Also, shortly after this picture was taken something really amusing happened. I was totally zoned out, not listening or thinking much, but I was sitting right in front of the announcer’s table. He was talking in Korean and I didn’t understand any of it, so I was just staring off into space. Then I suddenly realized “Hey… He’s speaking English right now.” I missed the first part of what he said, but here’s the rest: We’re honored to have them at our game tonight. Please welcome and support them with thunderous clapping of hands.

I figured perhaps a local celebrity was in attendance, but then I realized that everyone was looking  at me. They were honored to have foreigners at the game. I wasn’t the only white person there, I saw maybe five or six others, but they were down in the lower bowl, so I was the only real visible one. I got a kick out of it. It wasn’t what I’d call thunderous applause, but it was polite. In South Korea, I’m kind of a big deal.

Just four minutes into the second half, Cheonan City FC scores on a PK. A breath of life came back into the crowd as the comeback started.

Success! Half an hour later, following some inspired footwork and a perfect cross, the goalie prevented one shot, but we got the rebound and fired and absolute laser into the net.

The last fifteen minutes of the game were really intense, and we controlled possession almost the entire time, but failed to score again. We had three or four really good opportunities in extra time, though. In soccer, extra time is generally awarded. Partially to make up for any lost time due to people constantly “getting hurt”, but also, for another reason. Particularly in a close game, they don’t want to prevent a legitimate scoring opportunity because of an arbitrary time limit, so they play on a couple minutes to see if someone can end it.

I think a lot of the reason people in America don’t have the same appreciation for soccer is because of the often frequency of ties. I think Americans need there to be a winner and a loser in sport. In major American sports, ties are either impossible or laughably rare (I’m looking at you Bengals and Steelers). Still, a tie can be a great thing. It’s still one point, and it’s all about the tone. Being down 0-2 in the first half, escaping with one point is a great accomplishment.

After the game, I ran to try and catch a bus stopped at a light. Whether or not he would’ve let me on is up for debate, but it’s academic at this point. Just as I got to the bus, I reached forward to wave and try to get the driver’s attention. This happened just as the bus started driving away, and I simultaneously misjudged the curb and stepped off into nothingness. I biffed it real fucking hard. And right in front of some Korean on foot and a bus full of them on a busy ass street.

The damage:

I ended up just walking home, since it was only three bus stops. No reason to waste money and time waiting around. Got some bibimbap at a different Kim Bap shop, since mine closes early on weekends. Walked to school hoping to find some soccer going on, but it was deserted, so I found a ball and just kicked it around until 11 PM when the night watchmen that lives in the school shooed me away because the place was closed.

I went home and started flipping through channels, and there was an old American movie playing. I didn’t recognize it immediately, and it was in black and white, but it was in English with Korean sub-titles, so I watched it. Then I realized “Holy shit, this is Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho!” It aired completely without commercials, too. The only weird thing was that they blurred the knife. I guess they can’t show violence on TV. I’d somehow escaped all my English and film classes without ever seeing Psycho, so I was really happy. Like I said before, South Korea is a country of surprises.

When the movie ended at 1 AM, they advertised the showing of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times which will air next Saturday at 11 PM. I guess it’s a weekly thing. Makes sense since it’s the educational channel. The national anthem played (shit was like five minutes long) and it was paired with super patriotic South Korea FUCK YEAH footage. Then the station turned off. I’d literally never seen a TV station turn off before. Other stations were on, but I ended up going to a PC Bang for like an hour to see what was going on in the rest of the world. I watched a lot of K-pop music videos. Mostly to avoid listening to the female vocalist’s cover of “Don’t Stop Believing” that was on repeat the entire goddamn hour and a half I was there.

Sunday is going to be a laundry and shopping day. About to go home now and start laundry, then check the athletic shoe store close to me to see if they have anything in my size I can use for hiking and soccer. Then I have to go to E-mart. At the very least I should get an iron and a new belt. Possibly a new tie.


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