I was up with the larks on Saturday morning. The sun was streaming through the bedroom window, I was hangover-free and it was game day. There wasn’t just one game in the pipeline but two games.
As many of you will know, my youngest son is a member of the Suwon FC youth team. Youth teams in Korea are effectively U12, U15 and U18 with the oldest grade in each age group – elementary 6th, middle 3rd and high 3rd – the focus and the younger grades predominantly training and supporting their “brothers”. Kid B is U11 (5th grade in elementary school) so falls under the U12 umbrella. The U11s don’t play league games but have practice matches (friendlies) most weeks (Seongnam away tomorrow, June 6th). However, on Saturday the U12 had their second Weekend League (주말리그) match – a Suwon derby; Suwon FC U12 v Suwon Samsung U12. So, it was all hands on deck with the U12 and U11 players and parents making their way to ManSeok Park in North Suwon for the 12pm kick off. The visit from the city rivals brought everyone together in a show of Suwon FC unity.
From a Suwon FC perspective, the game ( 2 x 25 minutes) was a thing of beauty. Playing a high tempo, high pressing game Suwon FC forced the Bluewings on to the back foot from the start and captain Yoo Byeong-heon capitalized on a poor pass out from the goalkeeper and opened the scoring with a delightful chip over the stranded keeper. The young Bluewings were rattled and fell further behind when Kwon Min-se smashed a free kick into the top corner just after the halway point of the first half The Suwon FC parents who had marked this day in the calendars as “the Big One” and adopted the “Plucky Little Suwon FC versus Big Bad Samsung” line were in dreamland. High fives and hollering were the order of the day.
The Bluewings steadied after the second goal and started to come into the game more without causing any major problems for Suwon FC’s defence and it was 2-0 at half time. Bluewings passed the ball about nicely in the second half but again didn’t cause too many problems and the game was sealed with about 15 minutes remaining when Lee Jun-hyeok’s long range effort went in off the post. Bluewings missed a great chance for a consolation goal late on when their striker put it wide after the Suwon FC keeper lost his bearings coming for a long ball. The match finished Suwon FC U12 3 Suwon Samsung U12 0. A victory for good over evil I’m sure we all agree. It was a small measure of revenge for the thumping Maetan High School (Bluewings’ U18 team) handed Suwon FC U18 5-0 the week before.
As the Bluewings coaches, players and parents licked their wounds, the jubilant mood among those of a Suwon FC persuasion was growing and we set off en masse to a local restaurant for some refreshing naengmyeon and more back-slapping.
After lunch there was still 3 hours before the Suwon FC v Asan match was due to kick off and therefore 2 hours before the youth team players were due to gather – the youth team players are expected to attend home matches whenever possible. In truth, that’s the only reason I bought a season ticket but I am now “all in” with regard to Suwon FC.
Most kids set off to pass the time kicking a ball about while the parents sought shade in nearby houses and coffee shops. Ever the romantic, I treated Mrs. Alternative View to a Caramel Flataccino in Ediya. Smooth!!!!
With little else to do, we headed over to 수원종합우동장 around 4.45 with the intention of grabbing a couple of cool beers and my regular place in the back row of the temporary stand (it gives me the option of standing through the game). As I sat in position, soaking up the late afternoon sun and enjoying my cold Cass, I reflected on how well things were going and let myself dream of a win over the Police. Needless to say, things went downhill from then.
The first shock came with the team line-ups. I knew 2 of the regular back 3 would be out due to military service and U23 national team commitments but the absence of Alex (hamstring) and Kim Dong-chan (injury-prone or rushed back?) due to injuries and the relegation to the bench of Lee Seung-hyeon and Lee Gwang-jin gave the team an unusual look to say the least and my derby-victory/beer/sunshine induced optimism started to fade.
However, the major shock of the day came around 5.55p.m. As the players came out of the tunnel, the Suwon FC Real Crew – down in numbers it must be said – unveiled a banner and started chants of “Kim Dae-eui Out!” Said banner and chants were reproduced at the start of the second half and at full time. The shock was not at the sentiment as things have been poor this season but it was something I hadn’t detected from them and probably something I didn’t expect from them. Perhaps I naively assumed they wouldn’t be so militant and would blindly follow and support the team. I guess coming from the “city rivals” and from coaching youth football to the professional league meant that Kim was going to be under pressure if things went wrong but the suddenness of it surprised me. Though that may be a reflection of my limited Korean and the fact I’m not far beyond nodding terms with the Real Crew.
Loyal readers (Hi Mum!) will know that I have questioned Kim previously in this blog when analysing other matches. As I become more attuned to the nuances of the K-League and in particular of K-League 2, I may be mellowing. Clearly the pre-season expectations are not being met. Whether those expectations were realistic is now the crux of the matter. Sources within the club actually praise Kim for his professionalism and work ethic and point to the absolutely disastrous run of injuries which mean he hasn’t been able to field his strongest team or a settled eleven at any time this season. It may well be that the squad simply isn’t as good as many observers thought it would be. The debate will rage on as to whether Kim should be getting more out of them or if he’s been dealt a bum hand and will have to bluff his way forward or fold.
As for the game itself, Asan ran out deserved 2-0 winners. Suwon struggled to find any fluency and never really looked like scoring despite getting into some decent wide positions late on after Asan were reduced to 10 men. The midfielders and forwards are playing without any cohesion or confidence. The final pass was rushed and/or wayward and the forwards simply weren’t making good runs or finding space. Set pieces looked the most likely avenue to scoring but again the delivery just wasn’t good enough. A frustrating end to a good day.
In last week’s blog I suggested a minimum of 6 points was required from the 3 games before the break. That is still mathematically possible but in all honesty, unlikely. The never-ending injury list and the suspension of Leijer ahead of the trip to Bucheon tomorrow (Wednesday) make it hard to see Suwon picking up anything. However, as I said, I’m “all in” now, so after a trip to Seongnam to watch the U11s and U12s, off to Bucheon I’ll go in the hope that our luck changes.
So, that was my Saturday. One city, two matches. Highs and lows. Joys and frustrations. Beer and more beer. You can’t beat it!