This week the boys gear up for some end of season Shenanigans as the K-League enters it’s final stages and everyone has to start dusting off their volleyball scarfs and flags. Last weekend seen the final round of the Challenge as Asan, Seongnam and Bucheon all battled for the final two playoff spots. Mark is finally able to look out form the behind the couch as Seongnam, thanks to Seoul E-Land, made it by the skin of their teeth despite falling 1-0 to Champions Gyeongnam. There was some pre-match beer, banter and pizza awaiting his arrival in Jamsil as E-Land coach Dan Harris gave him some pointers on how to cope with the 90 minutes ahead. *Spoiler Alert – it involves the biting of nails and consumption of beer (okay Dan didn’t actually suggest the second part). Asan would also join Seongnam in the playoffs as they came from behind to draw 1-1 at Busan which left Bucheon feeling sorry for themselves as they fell short on the day. The fact that the bottom tier had all the seats ripped out before the match meant that not only did the fans watch their team ‘cement’ a lowly 5th position but they also had to endure sitting on cold concrete.
Also on this week’s show the boys discuss the Classic fixtures and the upcoming Player of the Year awards, they congratulate (kind of) Jeonbuk on another title and ultimately star on their badge, they reveal their losers and winners of the week and get all misty-eyed as they remember the Seongnam “glory days” for this episode’s K-Classic!
This weekend sees the final round of the K-League Challenge and there are still two playoff spots up for grabs as Asan, Seongnam and Bucheon all fight for the right to face-off to see who will play Busan and ultimately the lowest placed Classic club to join Gyeongnam at the top table of the K-League Classic. Gyeongnam and Busan have been running away with things at the top of the table for what seems like the full year while everyone else (well maybe not Daejeon) have been making up the numbers in the race for best of the rest. After some surprising results on Saturday past it was left to Seongnam only needing a win to clinch one of the spots, alas they failed to show up yet again which sets up the 3 team battle in the final week. With the table looking like this……
Below is a preview of the teams involved and predictions for their final positions.
Asan Mugunghwa FC
The Police team have, for the most part, performed better this season than their flailing Army counterparts in the Classic. They recently saw a four game winning streak come to an end as they lost at home to Champions Gyeongnam after being 2-1 up with only 30 mins to play. They of course won the league last year under the guise of Ansan Mugunghwa but were prohibited from promotion due to some ‘office politics’ involving Ansan wanting their own team. This year they have flirted between 3rd and 5th pretty much since the season began and would surely consider it a failure if they were to fall out of the playoffs now. Their final game is away to 2nd placed Busan who are in FA Cup semi-final action this midweek against Suwon Bluewings, defeat there might just knock their confidence a little. Busan have won two and drawn three against the Police this year, can they go undefeated?
Prediction : 3rd (should probably have enough to come back from Busan with a point)
The team in the Challenge that most expected to bounce straight back up have been beyond poor this season, they started with a goal drought which lasted for what must have felt like an eternity to their fans during which time fan favoutite and focal point Hwang Uijo was transferred to Gamba Osaka. They then dumbfounded most by going on a run of fourteen games unbeaten including eight victories which clawed them into playoff contention. In recent weeks though they’ve looked devoid of both imagination and confidence and look like a team in a downward spiral, not too dis-similar to this time last year. They’ll need to find huge performances from somewhere if they are to claim the ultimate prize of playoff glory. Seongnam have arguably the hardest match of the three as they travel to champions Gyeongnam who don’t appear to be letting up. Seongnam have failed to win against Gyeongnam this season but did draw 1-1 in Changwon earlier in the year.
Prediction: 5th (a draw might not be enough)
The final team vying for the playoffs is Bucheon FC who will be hoping to go one step further than last year when they lost in the playoff semi-final to Gangwon FC. This year they have been in and around playoff contention for the best part of the season, sitting between 3rd and 4th. They have a relatively strong squad and probably play some of the most attractive free-flowing football in the league although this does tend to leave them exposed at the back at times. In Waguininho they have one of the top goalscorers in the league and, along with Kim Shin, is definitely the one to watch. They travel to E-Land having lost heavily there back in August, E-Land have only their pride to play for but as we seen with Daejeon last weekend that can often be enough to squeeze a performance out.
Prediction : 4th (they have the easiest task of the three teams and should have enough to get the result)
This week sees The Phantom make the trip to 48 Shades Towers as he and Mark discuss the main issues making the news in Korean football. Hot on that list of topics is some recent transfer shenanigans that can best be described as a tad complex. We had Alex moving to E-Land from Anyang and in turn Lukian moving from Busan to Anyang to potentially make way for Leo coming from Daegu. We had podcast favourite Rodrigo Parana returning to Bucheon. Pohang swapped Lee Dong Ki for Seongnam’s Oh Do Hyun (of laughing at FC Seoul fame) and E-Land signed Ahn Jae Hoon from fellow Challenge club Suwon. Confused yet? A lot of work lies ahead for the ‘name of the back of the shirt’ industry that’s for sure.
Also on this week’s show the boys review two sets of Classic fixtures, discuss Pohang’s plight, look at some interesting PR from Seongnam, discuss gardening tips, look ahead to the weekend’s matches and more……
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…
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.
For the next 24 days leading up to the start of the K-League Classic 2016 season we will be opening a ‘window’ containing one feature of the K-League match day experience. From the highs to the lows we will take you through what we feel makes the K-League the ‘special’ league that it is and why it is should be the first entry in your weekly planners!!
So without further ado it’s time to see what lies behind window number 1.
K-Advent Day 1 – Running Tracks
Like a giddy kid on Christmas Eve we all love the prospect of watching football in a new stadium. From the travel to the different atmosphere to even the look and feel of a new ticket it all adds to the experience of going to a new ground (or maybe even your first ground). In Korea though there is one thing that can rip the heart out of that new experience quicker than you can say “Am I the only one here?” and its …… the dreaded running track and the now all too familiar sight of a hastily constructed, potential death-trap of a temporary stand! Now don’t get me wrong some clubs have managed to pull this off and Seoul E-Land and Seongnam FC are two of them but unfortunately they are the exception. For fans of Bucheon, for example, it really does look like somebody has been let loose with a Lego set after a few OB too many.
The running tracks are a relic of the days when football clubs would double-up as the local athletic club but it’s hard to imagine the need for this these days and save for the occasional ajumma walking off off some steam they remain unused. So if this is your first trip to a new stadium be ready as you may just find yourself sitting closer to the subway station than the pitch.