Week one of the new school year is often a revision week of what was covered last year and, for the most part, so it proved during the opening round of K League Classic as we learnt that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here we outline five facts that we (re)learnt this week.
1. When the bats are away the footballs will play.
Just like the opening round last year attendances were up across the K-League Classic with a whopping 32,000+ taking in Jeonbuk v Seoul and a ‘sold-out’ Tancheon soaking up Seongnam v Suwon Bluewings, but before anyone gets too carried away and we all rush to contact Fernando Torres’ agent to offer him the 100,000 a week he is looking for it should be noted that their was a distinct lack of baseball on offer last weekend. Not that we at 48 Shades are implying that the average Korean football fan is of the ‘fair-weather’ kind of course, merely that when it’s the only show in town we can almost fill a stadium. Of course an empty seat is probably still preferable to a phone-hugging rounders-watcher pretending to be interested in the game every time the crowd makes a noise.
2. Uli Stelike has the best eyesight in the land.
At 48 Shades we like to call a spade a spade and have at times flirted with controversy with our comments about one Mr. Stelike and his penchant for selecting anyone who plays outside of Korea so it was good to see him lapping up the atmosphere of Jeonnam v Suwon FC on Sunday although you could perhaps wonder who exactly he was ‘scouting’ in this one. He seemed to be a little vexed looking when the JTBC cameras darted to him during a lull in the 2nd half which may have been him trying to figure out what actual sport he was watching as it barely qualified as football such was the lack of apparent skill and passion being displayed on the pitch. Now the more cynical among us might try to claim that his attendance at this match was nothing more than a PR stunt with it being Suwon FC’s first game in the Classic and that he was in fact vexed as he couldn’t find coverage of the J2 on his cellphone.
3. Ulsan 2016 look more Ulsan 2015 than Ulsan 2013
Last year was one to forget for those of an Ulsan persuasion and it was with high expectations that they welcomed a new season and a fresh assault on the title. They must have been buoyed when the fixture list threw up a clash against Sangju (see post 5 for potential reasons for said clash being first ‘out of the hat’). It took roughly an hour for those expectations to be brought crashing down as they succumbed to a rather lackluster 2-0 defeat. Sure they were without the talismanic Wookie upfront but it really did look as if they had been briefed by the local kimbap vendor before kick-off. You do get the feeling that they could be in for another long and hard season if they can’t shore up defence, toughen up the midfield and actually find Lee Jeong Hyeop with a pass.
4. Seoul can’t escape their reputation as slow-starters
After two electrifying performances to open their ACL campaign in which they scored six goals away against the champions of Thailand and four goals at home against the Champions of Japan, Seoul’s fans were upbeat about their chances in R1 against Jeonbuk and travelled down in droves. Although this was arguably their toughest fixture of the season they were bright enough for the first 20 minutes but ultimately key players like Adriano and Shin Jin-ho were a shade of their ACL selves. Seoul huffed and puffed for 90 minutes but there was more lacking from the team than just white collars on the ACL strip. The fact that they went out four days later and scored four goals away against China’s third placed team just left Seoul fans scratching their head about why they start each league season so poorly and hoping that the hangover won’t continue this week against Sangju. Expect this item to become a meme in the coming weeks…
5. Jeonbuk get a lot of soft decisions in their favour
You would think that being owned by the company that also owns the company that has been the league’s main sponsor for the past six years and has also sponsored the referees and whose chairman, Chung Mong-Joon, was chairman of the KFA and a vice-president of FIFA until he got a 6 year ban from all football activities for corruption would mean that you might benefit from a bit of favouritism on the pitch. Unfortunately for Ulsan Hyundai, as we established just now, they are cack. On the other hand, Jeonbuk Motors, which is owned by his nephew and is a subsidiary of his elder brother’s company quite often seem to get the rub of the green. (Editor’s note: Groan!)
Whatever strange forces are at work, the 48 Shades boys have noted on numerous occasions that the ref seems to giving soft decisions to Jeonbuk and not much in favour of the opposition. Anyway, if the opposition are Jeonbuk expect penalties and free-kicks galore every time the Wookie trips over his shoelaces and nothing for when Leonardo goes all Mutant Ninja Turtle on your best striker. They say that what goes around, comes around but that’s only true in this case if you transfer to another club and line up against Jeonbuk…