The Magic of the FA Cup
The Korean national team takes to the field this week for the first time since their Round of 16 loss to Brazil at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Jurgen Klinsmann has been installed as the new manager and he'll begin his reign with friendlies against Colombia and Uruguay as the K League takes a short break. If, like me, you found yourself without a ticket for either game, don't worry. The Korean FA Cup is back!
There are 16 ties down for decision in Round 2 of the Korean FA Cup. This is the round when the K League 2 teams come to play but there are still plenty of lower league teams left. Unfortunately, the ties are split evenly between Wednesday and Thursday meaning a groundhop is likely to be out of the question for most people.
If you can visit a stadium next week, there are good reasons to do so. Firstly, the weather is unseasonably warm (although the air quality is terrible sometimes) for late March. Secondly, there are rare or unique games and, thirdly, there's always the opportunity to witness a major shock. One tie next week perfectly fits the description of a potential giant-killer or banana skin.
In the black corner, we have Seongnam FC. Under various names, Seongnam is a 7-time Korean champion, 3-time FA Cup winner, and twice conqueror of Asia. In short, it is one of the most successful clubs in modern Korean football. In the blue corner, Pyeongchang United FC, a semi-professional club in the K4 League that doesn't have murals on the wall of their modest Sports Park with a list of achievements.
|Seongnam FC's Tancheon Stadium proudly display the honours won by this club. [image: instagram.com/groundhopping_korea]|
Seongnam FC (K League 2) v Pyeongchang United FC (K4) is the only fixture with an entire division separating the clubs. The game is taking place at Tancheon Stadium next Wednesday at 7 pm. This is a great time of the year to see a game in Seongnam because of the cherry-blossom-lined Tancheon River with good access by bike. There is a running track but unless you're in the away end, the view is good from any seat in the stadium.
[Read: KLU's guide to Tancheon Stadium]
A Jeollanam-do derby featuring Jeonnam Dragons (K League 2) and FC Mokpo (K3) would have made for a very entertaining trip had it been staged on the weekend. Jeonnam Dragons are an example of why football fans love a knock-out cup competition after they defied all the odds to win this tournament in 2021 from the second tier.
They play at the neat 13,000-capacity Gwangyang Football Stadium on the southwest coast. For a midweek Cup game, there'll be plenty of empty seats affording the groundhopper a perfect opportunity to walk around and see the game from different vantage points.
Southwest of Suwon, the impressive - but ridiculously oversized for K3 - Hwaseong Stadium is the venue for Hwaseong FC and Ansan Greeners. This stadium has hosted international football, most recently Korea Republic's Qatar 2022 send-off against Iceland. It is a beautiful and modern multi-use (in other words, it has a running track) stadium with a capacity of 35,000.
Similar to Gwangyang, spectators will be able to wander and enjoy the view from most blocks. The only downside to this stadium is the location; unless you're living close by, it is a difficult venue to reach especially around rush hour.
|Behind the goals at Mokdong Stadium, which will host Seoul E-Land versus Bucheon FC 1995. [Image: instagram.com/groundhopping_korea]|
Elsewhere on Wednesday, a couple of K League 2 clashes catch the eye; FC Anyang, who agonizingly missed out on a dream promotion last autumn, welcome fellow high fliers Busan IPark to the Anyang Stadium for a 7 pm kick-off. This ground has a track but with temporary seating on three sides, most fans will be seated next to the pitch.
Anyang's supporters are normally quite noisy and some of their chants are lively. The purple jerseys definitely stand out. Anyang stadium is located reasonably close to the busy commercial area of Beomgye on the light blue Line 4, so it is easily accessible and there are endless pre and post-game food options.
At the same time, Seoul E-land hosts top-of-the-table Bucheon FC 1995 at Mokdong. These clubs are separated by 11 places on the table and 11 km in distance. Given the midweek kick-off, that doesn't guarantee a large traveling support, though.
Again, there's a track at Mokdong but renovations made to the stadium have made a massive difference. I like the seat color scheme and the exterior is heavily decorated with Seoul E-Land banners. Mokdong is located beside the Anyang River with great cycling paths, and the decent cityscape backdrop makes it a worthwhile visit.
Yeoju FC (4pm), Chungbuk Cheongju FC, and Chungnam Asan FC (both 7pm) also host 2nd round games on Wednesday.
Thursday's selection is arguably more interesting and would have made for a groundhopper's dream journey had they been scheduled at different times on the weekend. Only Cheonan City FC of K League 2 will play a home game (7pm). The remaining fixtures will take place at lower-league stadiums.
|Busan IPark will visit Anyang Stadium for their 2nd round clash on Wednesday. [image: instagram.com/groundhopping_korea]|
Daejeon Korail versus Gimcheon Sangmu (behind the city's World Cup Stadium) and Busan Transportation versus Dangjin Citizen FC (next to Busan Asiad Stadium) take place at Secondary or Auxiliary stadiums. I'll be writing an article on visiting the 'bojo' stadiums in the summer, but they're basically a pitch with a small stand in the shadows of a much larger stadium.
The Futbology app has the full list of Korean FA Cup fixtures, the kick-off times, and, the number of kilometers the ground is from where you live. Personally, I haven't made up my mind yet between Seongnam, Anyang, or Seoul E-Land. The latter two are convenient but imagine being in Tancheon to see fourth-tier Pyeongchang United dispose of Seongnam FC? Games like this are what Cups were invented for.
[Read: Futbology: A groundhopper's best friend]