Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Soccer Made in Sangam

One of the reasons I didn't want to go to the phantom co-teacher training session was because that would make it impossible to attend the DPRK vs ROK soccer match taking place at Seoul World Cup Stadium tonight in Sangam, right across the river.

Soccer here in Korea is far more popular on TV than it is in the stadium, so I was sure I could get tickets near game time, and therefore didn't book any. What this meant was that I had no overweening reason to fight attending the training session, but also none to attend the match--what, me, waste 15 bucks?

I found out yesterday from Miss Lee that I was, in fact, NOT expected to attend the training session, even though I had gotten an email describing it as practically mandatory--are you confused? I am--but by the end of the day today I had done the same lesson (more on that in a later post) three times with Mr Lee Gum-cheon, so I felt a bit buzz-tired.

I decided not to go and watch the game. Therefore, I timed my visit to the gym so I could watch the first half on the treadmill and the stationary bike after completing 14 km on the elliptical--with a target time of 36 min., which I met. I find it harder to watch the TVs when on the elliptical. My plan was to use the muscle relaxer thing--it's quite loud--at halftime, so as not to annoy people. Yes, I'm polite like that.

Actually, not so much, really, but as the sole pink-skinned person these folks are likely to know, I sometimes feel the need to set a good example. I wipe my sweat off the equipment, even if they don't ...

I've only used it twice, but I gotta say that for anyone who wants to push himself in cardio exercises, loading an mp3 player with driving tunes and fast rhythmic beat songs then playing it on shuffle, is a good way to go. What you want is 120 beats per minute. Of course, you can get more elaborate, with playlists and interval training and so on, but I'm not there yet.

Well--I got one crucial fact wrong in this equation, which might have changed everything: the match began at 8:00 pm local time, not 7:00! I could definitely have gotten there, even after a workout in the fitness center. The stadium is three stops away once I get to Hapjeong:

WCStadium from Hapjeong
And I really regret missing it in person, because it was an awesome game. At least for South Korea fans. It has been kind of a quandary that the North has managed to tie the South in their last FOUR consecutive meetings, in both World Cup qualifying and Asian Cup competition. I blogged their last meeting here.

No question, they are both strong teams compared to the likes of UAE, Bahrain or Qatar, but in watching three of those draws, I have been dissatisfied by the results--Tehan Minguk (the South) is the better team. From individual ball skills to concerted team movement to speed, desire and creativity, the North has been totally outclassed in every game.

It looked like the same result was in the offing tonight, when I made my way to the Cooper hof for some smoked chicken to accompany the soccer. Though ROK dominated the game in every sense, from corner kicks to shots to time of possession (80% to 20%), a nil tie looked probable.

The Reds kept up their pressure, however, and with two minutes left, scored on a free kick from about 30 yards. A defender actually put a hand on the ball, but that only redirected it after the keeper had committed.

I have mentioned before my Big Five theory, so I will only point out that this result is yet another data point in its favor. My friends at Cooper hof--well, they're not friends beyond the association we draw when rooting for the same team in the same place--all did the ol' "gambe" toast with me upon the conclusion of the match. It is understood that this means ROK will make its way to the round of 32 in South Africa 2010.

The title of this post comes from a TV series on PBS in the 70s titled "Soccer Made in Germany" hosted by Toby Charles. He would show significant segments of a match from the Bundesliga narrating it in his inimitable prose, using an hour-long show to cover a 90 minute match plus highlights and scores from around the league. Sangam is the location of Seoul World Cup Stadium.

Very early on in my acquaintance with the "internets" I searched for Toby Charles, and at that time I only found two references. If you look today, you will find thousands, as the online community of soccer fans has established itself. Go ahead, put his name into Google and see how many hits come up--more than two, I betcha!

Mr Charles was for many Americans of that time the bridge from the weak NASL to the "beautiful game" as seen in the highlights from Germany. But mainly, he was so colorful! A florid description of an attack; a shaming--with names--of defenders who let in a goal; memorable catchphrases: They'll be talking about that one in the pubs tonight, or Does he have the nerve?


SuperDrew said...

Seeing the subway map pic in your post reminded me that I saw they updated the subway maps inside the trains.

Looks like you are going to be convenienced by the addition of line 9, yo.

There was also another line added, but it was a crowded day, so I couldn't quite figure it out.

Tuttle said...

Yeah, definitely convenienced by line 9--supposedly one month from now. I saw a newsstory last week about taking delivery of the train cars.