The game in question was the Asian Champions League Quarter-final 2nd leg between Suwon Bluewings and Jeonbuk Hyundai. Bluewings, somehow, came into the game with a 3-0 advantage having taken Jeonbuk apart in the 1st leg and obviously fancied their chances of easing through into the Eastern section’s final. The game would prove to be one of the best 120 mins of football I’ve watched in Korea as Bluewings did everything in their power to blow their unassailable lead.
It’s difficult to think of many better ‘away end’ views than those on offer at Suwon World Cup Stadium as few, if any, seats come with an obstruction and due to the sloping of the stands you find yourself practically on top of the action, making it one of the more ‘European’ style experiences. The stadium is only really accessible by bus with the main subway station, Suwon Station, being quite a trek from the stadium. But the good news is that there are several buses from Seoul which go directly past the ground itself.As if the great view inside was not enough to make this one of the best away experiences the ground comes equipped with the ‘Big Bird Cafe’ located directly next to the stadium and this is where most fans congregate beforehand for a beer or two. Recently there have been a few food trucks popping up around the cafe which adds to the pre-match festivities.The main ticket office is just down from said cafe and although there are two sides from which to purchase the all-important match ticket it would appear that one is closed more often than not which can result in slightly long queues depending on the opposition with a brief setting you back around 14,000W.
Cherish that 14,000W ticket that you bought as it’s probably the only ‘value for money’ item offered by the Bluewings!. Bag searches for the away at The Big Bird are among the strictest in Korea and it’s rare that you can get more than a can or two past the ‘security’ team. Beer is available at the rather small and always busy kiosk inside the ground but this is not the worst part of the story….no that accolade is reserved for the fact they only sell small 330ml cans but, much to the annoyance of everyone, charge a 500ml can price for the pleasure. Suwon Bluewings have a sponsorship deal in place with China’s Tsing Tao and so at least the beer on offer is good. The staff generally don’t insist too much on decanting the beer and are prone to letting you carry it away if you start to make a fuss. There are two kiosks in the away end but generally only one is open depending on the visiting team and this, obviously, leads to snaking queues of thirsty fans.
As mentioned above the game itself was a fantastic contest as Jeonbuk threw everything into the match while Bluewings opted to sit back and defend their lead pretty much from kick-off. It was 1-0 Jeonbuk at HT and 3-0 come the final whistle. Adriano had the chance to win the match in the 91st minute as he stepped up to take a dramatic penalty but keeper Shin Hwa-yong was up to the task and saved it, that would not be the final time we would say that on the night. Extra time involved more Jeonbuk attacking and unfortunately more of the over-priced Tsing Taos, my smuggled beers a distant memory by this time. Neither team was able to find a winner in extra-time and so we headed to penalties and it would be Shin Hwa-yong who would emerge the hero, saving two of the penalties and ensuring it was Suwon Bluewings’ name in the next round. All that was left was to make my way to The Big Bird and a quick ‘one for the road’ before making the trip back to Seoul.
Highlights : Great view and having the Big Bird Cafe for pre and/or post match drinks is always a plus.
Lowlights : Strict bag searches and having to pay the ridiculous sum of 3000W for a ‘small’ Tsing Tao.