The K-Advent Calendar Day 15 – Smugglers

Day15 - Soju

The K-Advent Day 15 – Smugglers

Soju

One of the best things about attending live sport in Korea, aside from the actual sport obviously, is the ability to have a cold beer while soaking up the atmosphere and excitement on show. From sports as varied as football to baseball to even woman’s volleyball alcohol is freely available within the confines of the arena. So it does beg the question why so many of us still run the risk of annoying a security ‘gorilla’ by ‘smuggling’ copious amounts of alcohol into a match. From the slopes of Bucheon Stadium to the temporary terraces at Tancheon, from The Big Bird to Leol Park you will find fans delving into their bags for a refill all the while trying not to catch the eye of a jobs-worth steward intent on forcing you to decant your carefully hidden treasure into a cheap plastic, or even worse, paper cup. For many it’s as simple as not wanting to queue for a beer and potentially miss something spectacular for others it’s that feeling of rebellion the likes of which have been missing since the days of chapping Old Mrs. Hughes’ door and hiding behind her bins.

Of course for every punter who smuggles in the odd beer to avoid queuing there will be the proverbial ‘mile-taker’ who will feel the need to bring in a bag of swag that could sate the thirst of a shipload of Russian sailors. I know the quality of football on show in the K-League might not quite hit the dizzy heights of some of Europe’s elite leagues but it probably doesn’t need a bottle or two of Jinro’s finest to get you through 90 mins, now if it was the rounders? I would fully understand. Over the years we at 48 Shades HQ have witnessed everything from bottles of Soju, Sake, Wine and even bottles of Gin make an appearance in the stands of various Classic stadiums. Most stadiums seem to have some kind of bag search in place although for the most part this is mainly in operation in the ‘away’ end. Some grounds seem to place more importance on this than others with The Big Bird and Incheon United being probably the two most infamous. At 48 Shades we do love a challenge and there are few more satisfying beers to be had than those in the back rows of Incheon Stadium.

So if you are planning on taking in some of the opening matches of the new season we recommend one of two techniques. 1) ‘The scarf over the beer’ technique. This involves putting a scarf or something similar over the contraband in question and offering to open your bag to the nasty bag-searcher showing only the scarf and thus keeping your illicit goods hidden. 2) ‘The give one up for the greater good’ technique. This canny method involves looking incredibly naive and or innocent, picture Puss from Shrek!. When asked to show the contents of your bag you ‘accidentally’ reveal one of your cans. The Dick Dastardly-esque employee will be so happy to have unearthed a beer that they will almost certainly search no further and will instead pour said beer into a cup leaving you to enjoy the remaining cans at your leisure once seated.

Put my beer in a cup? No problem chief!!
Put my beer in a cup? No problem chief!!
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The K-Advent Calendar Day 14 – Brazilian Flops

Day14 - Diddy Brazilians %28Bill%2C Almir%2CRafael Costa%2C Hygor%2C Moritz%29

K-Advent Day 14 – Brazilian Flops

They may have taken the game to new levels of excitement with their samba style and their ability to come up with incredibly talented sounding one-word names, Pele, Socrates, Falcoa, Ronaldinho, Fred (Oops how did that one happen), but not all Brazilians are blessed with a natural gift for ‘The Beautiful Game’. Ask any K-League fan and they can round off a list of potential Brazilian Heroes who unfortunately turned out to be more Sol Bamba than Joe Samba. Over the years we have seen our fair share of Jorginhos, Kaios and Patys but few have had such a lasting impact on the K-League as our famous five of Almir (Bucheon), Rafael Costa (Seoul), Andre Moritz (Pohang), Bill (Busan) and Hygor (Suwon Bluewings).

Okay we realize that Hygor has yet to ‘flop’ in the K-League but it doesn’t take a pair of mystic balls to predict him having a less than glorious career in Korea. It is usually a pretty surefire sign of mediocrity when you struggle to find either a wikipedia page or a YouTube compilation video of a new signing. Almir and Costa make our list of ‘diddys’ based solely on the fact that they are indeed ‘diddys’. Almir recently showcased his talents in the red of Bucheon which actually means he spent almost every game trotting around the running track ‘warming up’ for a cameo role as ‘supersub’ that never really happened with only one goal to his name last season. Costa was brought in as Dejan was departing to pastures new and this probably placed huge expectation on his shoulders which could explain his rather rotund body shape. He would go on to make 9 league appearances in two years and fail to find the net in either. Bill makes the list as well come on he’s a Brazilian called Bill, at least Hulk is a fairly well-built chap and suits his name. Added to his name is the fact that he scored only two goals for the Southern team and he’s a welcome addition to our list.

Rounding off our list is the one and only Andre Moritz. He arrived in Korea with Pohang Steelers and had the pedigree of having played in England with Crystal Palace and Bolton. He was immediately loaned out to the Indian leagues to get match fit and his return was hugely anticipated, but unfortunately his temperament left a lot to be desired and he quickly found himself suspended before yet again being loaned out to India. This loan spell was even less productive than his previous stint in the Super League and after one match he returned to The Steelers to never feature again for them. Recent rumours are that he has walked out on new club Buriram United before playing a competitive match for them citing “I don’t like Thailand” as the reason. I think it might be time for Andre to look at a different career, maybe he could replace Stevie on the 48 Shades podcast…

Another pair of Brazilian flops arrive in Korea
Another pair of Brazilian flops arrive in Korea

The K-Advent Calendar Day 13 – Cheering Aids

Day13 - Cheering Aids

K-Advent Day 13 – Cheering Aids

Much has been made of the atmosphere, or lack thereof, at K-League matches in recent years with many fans seeming to shun the matchday experience perhaps for rounders or even worse chimek in the park. Some clubs have tried to combat this with the use of various ‘cheering aids’ to encourage the meeker among the crowd to join in. FC Seoul and Ulsan have employed the use of Cheerleaders with the latter pulling off a transfer the Chinese Super League would have been proud of when they persuaded a top baseball cheerleader to lead their ranks. The cheerleaders have had limited impact unfortunately which is not due to a lack of skills or effort but mainly because they are usually placed far away from the traditionally vocal support behind the goals and so any ‘cheer’ they begin is promptly drowned out. Rumours that they are placed far from said support due to the likelihood of the 48 Shades boys making up their numbers has yet to be confirmed.

For other clubs, namely Seongnam and Jeonnam, the preferred aid comes in the guise of groups of thunderstick wielding ajummas who generally look they have been press-ganged into attending on the back of false promises. Actually having been among this rather passionate if not exactly in-tune group at a recent Seongnam away trip to Seoul World Cup Stadium it is slightly unfair to call them ajummas as definitely for some a trip to the local hairdresser for a perm was probably a few years down the line. Although their impact on encouraging others is probably less than that of the cheerleaders they do bring a welcome dash of colour and noise to the game.

Of course not all ‘cheering aids’ are welcome at K-League grounds and where thundersticks and cheerleaders are generally accepted if not exactly embraced there is one aid that we at 48 Shades HQ think should never be allowed near a football stadium and that is the horrendous vuvuzela. A relic from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa it was hoped that it would disappear quicker than a bottle of Soju in a Yeouido tent with @korearacing but unfortunately all hope was lost and Korean football fans seem to love them. They can usually be heard mainly at opposition corners although quite what impact they actually have on the corner-taker is yet to be seen and I’m sure a good old-fashioned jeering would suffice.

jeonnam_ajummas
Jeonnam’s cheer-ajumas in action!

The K-Advent Calendar Day 12 – ‘Leaving Characters’

Day12 - Leaving

K-Advent Calendar Day 12 – Leaving ‘Characters’

Leaving

Much like a TV drama needs it’s heroes and villains  so to does the world of football, from Maradonna to John Terry to Thierry Henry to David Beckham each league needs those players that fans can either dream to be or wish to maim. The K-League is of course no different and has seen it’s fair share of ‘comic book characters’ down through the years. This winter we saw the departure of several players who could definitely unite or split a crowd on any given Saturday/Sunday. But by far the four main characters that we at 48 Shades will miss gracing the green fields of the K-league are FC Seoul’s Cha Duri, Suwon Buewing’s Jung Sung Ryong, Jeju United’s Yoon Bitgaram and Seongnam FC’s Park Joon Hyuk. I can almost hear the cries of “why Park?” but when a player starts a season as the hero of last season’s FA Cup final victory only to go on to look like he’d never seen a football and then end the season as a rock in goals to then fail a test to join the Police football team and have to quit football to carry out regular military service then you begin to see the reasoning behind his inclusion.

Cha and Jung will definitely be missed in this year’s Classic, Cha for his passion and work-rate and Jung for his ability to go from the sublime to the sub-standard within the space of one half. The news that Suwon Bluewing’s ‘number 1’ would no longer be manning the goals at The Big Bird was met with a heavy heart at 48 Shades HQ as we could no longer use the catchphrase “He’s ‘Junged’ it hasn’t he?” to refer to a goalkeeping mishap, although with national team coach Uli Stielike’s penchant for choosing players that don’t play in Korea maybe we will still get to see the great man in the flesh again. Cha Duri will of course be a huge loss but not it would seem to all of those of the Suhoshin as it’s fair to say he wasn’t always their favourite son, actually judging by some of the ‘constructive feedback’ thrown at him last year I’m not sure he was even their favourite right-back.

Yoon Bitgaram on the other hand will actually be missed for footballing reasons… well almost. A pretty poor season at Seongnam had earned him the rather creative moniker of “Yoon Shit-garam”, this was followed by a move to Jeju which I wouldn’t say was  celebrated by the Seongnam faithful but they weren’t exactly trudging around the streets of Yatap wailing and contemplating the meaning of life. It was to be in the orange of Jeju though that he would develop into quite the midfield general so much so that he would have been in most people’s ‘team of 2015’. A move to China beckoned and he along with Pohang’s Kim Seung Dae prompted what most feared would be an exodus to China of K-League talent as they secured moves to Yanbian FC. Luckily for the K-League China turned it’s eyes towards plundering over-priced ‘bench-warmers’ from Europe and the floodgates were promptly shut.

So much like The Walking Dead survived Shane’s untimely demise I’m sure the K-League will survive the departure of these four. After all we still have The Wookie to frustrate us, Adriano to break our hearts in the last minute, Yeom Ki Hun to whip in a free-kick and Hwang Uijo to score his sixth chance of the match. All is not lost just yet.

He's only gone and 'junged' the cake!!
He’s only gone and ‘junged’ the cake!!

 

 

Episode 52 – The morning quickie

48Shadesimage

Episode 52 – The Morning Quickie


 

music_double_note_song_melody-5126 of 1 thing half a dozen of another, 6 of 1 thing half a dozen of anothermusic_double_note_song_melody-512

This week saw the return of competitive football in the shape of the Asian Champions League. It also witnessed the much awaited return of FC Seoul legend Dejan in the red and black although it would be another player in Seoul’s colours who would steal the limelight as Adriano would rack up four goals against a rather beleaguered Buriram defence in a 6-0 routing.  There was also a good result for Jeonbuk who ran out 2-1 victors over Fc Tokyo with a number of their new signings making their debuts, some more successful than others. Pohang returned from China with a share of the points in a closed doors game against the mighty Evergrande in what must be regarded as a point won. The final match was Suwon v Gamba which Mark made the trip down to watch. It finished 0-0 with both teams huffing and puffing before ultimately hitting the woodwork and leaving a disappointed and frozen Mark to make the journey home without a goal to show for his efforts.

Tune into Episode 52 for a review of all four East Asian groups as well as the result of the nail-biting K-League motto competition. We also hear who the Managers and Captains of each Classic team think will win the league *spoiler alert – it’s not Gwangju*. And to round things off the boys will discuss their favourite subject ….. Ball Beer Girls.

The K-Advent Calendar Day 11 – Half-Time Events

Day11 - Half-Time

K-Advent Day 11 – Half-time Events

Half-time events have changed quite a bit since we at 48 Shades HQ were cutting our teeth on the terraces back home. I especially remember my half-time normally consisted of being sent to fetch a fresh bovril by my soon-to-be brother-in-law, a practice I gladly passed on to his nephew some 18 months my junior, I guess even back then I was laying the foundations for the cut-throat world of chaebol office politics. Not to be left behind in the wake of other sporting events the K-League has also embraced the concept of ‘we need to give them something to cheer about as that last 45 mins was rank rotten’. Most of the K-League Classic teams have some kind of HT giveaway competition with some aiming to reward your knowledge of football, some your dancing prowess and in FC Seoul’s case the ability to stick a finger in the air while smiling gleefully like a demented chipmunk on helium.

The prizes on offer for these events are generally some kind of club merchandise such as a scarf or hat, although FC Seoul push the boat out and give away the amazing prize of GS vouchers, an act that surely comes under the heading of ‘we want the chaebol money just not their name in our team’s name so we can pretend to be a club of the people’. At Seongnam they have a HT dance-off in which the winner has the opportunity to win a 42-inch TV or a scarf, no difference there obviously. This dance-off also gives the cameraman the chance to audition for the next World Cup as he spends most of the interval scouring the crowd for females.  But for us at 48 Shades Tower you can keep your merchandise, your shameless product-placement vouchers nay even your TVs as there is only one thing we want at half-time and that is a tractor!!! Yip you read it right a tractor! Not content with trying to steal our hearts by being the ‘Army’ team Sangju Sangmu also like to parade tractors around their stadium on any given half-time. It may sound like one step away from banjo music but it is a a tad quaint and does sum up the differences between the top and bottom teams in Korea.

So if you are planning on heading to a K-League ground near you soon then remember to at least stay for the HT event as who knows if you are lucky you might just be driving a shiny new combine harvester home to tea, although maybe you will have to do with a 10,000W GS voucher which might just get you a packet of Honey Butter chips to take away the pain. 

hansel-zoolander-dance-off
The Seongnam dance-off just got real!! Tancheon’s so hot right now!

The K-Advent Calendar Day 10 – Zoom Lenses

Day10 - Zoom

K-Advent Day 10 – Zoom Lenses

zoom

It will come as no surprise that K-League stadiums are often awash with the kind of zoom lenses normally associated with those sneaky beach-dwelling paparazzi folks who spend their days waiting in hope for the occasional ‘wardrobe malfunction’. What does set the K-League apart from other top-flight leagues however is the fact that it can often take such a zoom lens for fans to merely see their heroes in action on the pitch. As mentioned previously in our K-League countdown there are often running tracks alongside the field of play and where these may not have the world’s greatest impact for the average fan who cares not where he sits it does have a huge impact on those who wish to sit behind the goals. Traditionally these areas are usually the domain of the ‘away’ fan or ‘Ultra’. It is interesting that many would consider these groups to be the hardcore element in the league and yet they are often lumbered with the worst view.

Some of the worst culprits for this are probably the Classic’s Seongnam FC and the Challenge’s Bucheon FC. At Tancheon, the home of Seongnam, the away fans are subjected to a view that could probably only be worse if the stand was facing away from the pitch. At Bucheon fans often struggle to even clearly read the numbers on the back of the player’s shirts such is the distance from the stand to the pitch. I think this explains why they keep shouting at number 18 even when he isn’t playing, well I think that’s what they mean by “shi-pal”.  Sometimes when taking in a match at Bucheon Stadium I’m reminded of the legendary Father Ted clip where Ted uses a plastic toy cow to explain to Dougal “these are small, these are far away”.

Of course the benefits of the zoom lens are wide and varied and are not necessarily restricted solely to aiding one’s view of the football delights on show. They also allow you to track exactly where the Ball Beer crew are which in turns allows you to properly plan whether a quick dash to the convenience store is in order. 

Okay maybe there are worse views than the K-League
Okay maybe there are worse views than the K-League