"I didn't handle the pressure well" - Dejan recalls first Super Match with Suwon Bluewings
The first Super Match of 2018 saw Dejan Damjanović line up against FC Seoul for the first time following his shock move to Suwon Bluewings. Dejan admits that he didn't handle the pressure of the occasion and that the 0-0 draw at Big Bird will go down as one of the worst Super Matches of all time.
Dejan made the move from FC Seoul to Suwon Bluewings in January 2018 and just a few months later he was presented with the unenviable task of trying to score against and beat the team he represented for eight years.
"That was the worst feeling ever. It was a very, very weird feeling. Can you imagine first time playing against FC Seoul? That was like few months after everything happens and I signed for Suwon Samsung. Swon was going well, much better than Seoul in that moment and we had the Super Match and I was like, 'oh my God, man'. I'm just was like thinking not to make a mistake [like] go in the wrong locker room, not to go to the wrong fans."
The game itself was Round 5 of the 2018 K League 1 season, played on 8th April 2018 at Big Bird and ended 0-0. It will be remembered for Dejan's Suwon debut but very little else as it was one of the worst Super Matches of all time, prompting the media to question whether the Super Match was still "super." Dejan, too, admits that it wasn't a good game and says that his own performance wasn't good enough.
"I didn't feel good and I think that was like one of the worst, my worst Super Match games I played ever. I was like running but didn't run. I wanna score goal, but I was like, 'What's happening, man? How I'm in blue now attacking the red and black?' Honestly, I must say it was a really strange feeling and that was one of my worst games and I didn't handle that pressure well. I must admit when game finished zero, zero, I was very happy. I was very happy, I must be honest. Everybody who knows me knows how I feel after that game."
The build-up to the game was intense. Media attention is always cranked up a couple of notches during Super Match week but for the first one with Dejan in the blue of Suwon going up against the team where he made his name in Asia meant it had reached fever pitch.
"I was very under pressure, media, fans, their messages, making video before Super Match. I was really under pressure and honestly, I always handled the pressure. I like these kind of games when they put pressure on me - I'm like that. I was doing well all my career in that kind of games. But that game was really specific and I was really, didn't feel well. That after eight years, first time I play against FC Seoul, Suwon Samsung's biggest opponent. So I must say I didn't, I didn't handle it well, and I'm sorry that was really one of the worst Super Matches - 0-0 and one chance. I think we had one chance. Oh my."
The Super Match was just another game for Dejan in his first season at FC Seoul, but when the capital club lost in the 2008 K League Final to Suwon, that was when he realised it was anything but:
"It's a big game, it's a lot of expectation, but I didn't feel it. We played the game, I see a lot of fans, good atmosphere - even better for us foreigners. I didn't feel it's so important for everyone in Korea. I think that's normal because I was there only one year, one year and a half, for example. So I think that was just one good game to play, a good opponent at that time Suwon Samsung. In 2008 we played final with them for title. Suwon Samsung was great team, a lot of national team players. Cha Boom (Cha Bum-kun) coach, Suwon had Samsung totally supporting them with a lot of investments, fans, marketing. So it was really huge game, but it was some nice game to play but nothing else."
"Later I start feeling it, you know, final we lose and then I saw after the game a lot of pressure from fans, you know, people crying [because] we lose the final. I was very angry, that we lose against Suwon. That was like double extra pain for the FC Seoul fans. That time I start feeling that this game is huge and that, totally you need to prepare differently for this kind of games and especially for us foreigners playing in FC Seoul, we played for many years with the same foreigners. We need to make something extra in this kind of games and we need to bring something extra."
Hear Dejan talk at length about his Super Match memories in the latest episode of the KLU Podcast.
Where to Listen
Watch the full, director's cut video version now on KLU Patreon.