The Heather Cho award for ‘having your nuts handed to you on a plate’.
Runner-up – FC Seoul (FA Cup Final) – Losing a cup final doesn’t normally constitute ‘having your nuts handed to you on a plate’ but when said final is at your home ground against a team fighting relegation and who had never recorded a victory at your stadium it is pretty bad. Seongnam’s plan was simple, frustrate Seoul and play for penalties. It was a plan that had seen them defeat Jeonbuk in the semi-final, it was also a plan that was as predictable as me miscounting how many Cass I’d need to see me through the match. Some stupid comments made by Seoul players before the match did add a little extra spice to the affair but in truth Seoul looked devoid of ideas for most of the match and it was no surprise in the end that Seongnam took the trophy back to Yatap.
Winner – Pohang – After the highs of their league and cup ‘double’ last year all eyes were fixed on Pohang to see if they could repeat the feat or at least one half of it. They started the season as they had left off and soon looked like the team to catch. But slowly it all started to go pear-shaped for the Steelers. Starting with a penalty-kick cup defeat at Seoul World Cup stadium they then started to lose their grip at the top of the table. First Jeonbuk then Suwon Bluewings overtook them in the league, surely tho they would hold onto their ACL spot in third? An away draw against 4th placed, and nearest challengers Seoul, with only one game left meant they were in pole position. They had Suwon at home and knew that even a draw would secure them third place. 1-0 up with 10 mins to go and with Seoul struggling to find a winner at Jeju it was all but wrapped up….. then up steps Jong Ta Se and with one assist and a goal in 6 mins it was all over for Pohang as they lost 2-1 while Osmar blasted Seoul into the ACL with almost the last kick of the ball. Having been in such a strong position for most of the season to end up with nothing was a disaster for Pohang.
The Peter Van Vossen award for miss of the season.
For those of you who don’t know Peter Van Vossen was a Dutch striker who played for Glasgow Rangers in the 90s. He is best known for a shocking miss against bitter rivals Celtic during an Old Firm game. So bad was the miss that it is still referred to in Scottish football whenever a player misses a sitter. The video of said miss is below for all your enjoyment. Back to the K-League and the award for miss of the season goes to.
Runner-up – Rodrigo Parana – Rodrigo ended up having a reasonably successful first season in Korea especially considering he was playing for Bucheon. But in the first match I saw him play, against Suwon FC in the Big Bird stadium, he had a mare. The match finished 3-2 to Suwon and Rodrigo had at least 3 clear cut chances for Bucheon, each of which he contrived to pass up with a blast over the bar from 4 yards everyone’s favourite.
Winner – Sergio Escudero (FA Cup Final) – Escudero is one of those footballers that both his own fans and opposition fans love to hate. He can either score sublime goals such as the cracker he notched up in Ulsan or he can miss the easiest of chances. In the FA Cup Final though he surpassed even his own previous bests! In the first half with Seongnam settling into their game plan of frustrating Seoul their keeper Park spilled a simple cross right to the feet of Escudero. With an open net looming he missed not one chance but an amazing three open goals and the ball finally found its way back into the relieved hands of Park. It was a cup final, it was at home, it should’ve put the tie firmly in Seoul’s hands instead they went on to lose the match on penalties.
As promised Van Vossen’s miss is below.
The Saving Private Ryan award for ‘soldier of the year’.
This award goes to the best K-league player serving their military service with Sangju FC.
Runner-up – Lee Keun Ho – Lee would’ve probably won 1st place but just like Vin Diesel in the movie he bowed out a little too early for my liking. Having starred at the world cup, his goal against Russia eagerly celebrated by Korean fans worldwide, he completed his military service but chose to move to the Middle East instead of returning to parent club Ulsan. Who knows how Ulsan’s fortunes may have changed if they had been able to pair Lee up with Kim Shin Wook for the remainder of the season.
Winner – Yang Joon A – Just like Tom Hanks, Yang spent the most time ‘on screen’ for Sangju during the season making 30 appearances. He aided Sangju’s cause with 3 goals from midfield which although far from prolific was symptomatic of Sangju’s inability to outscore their opponents. Yang played a starring role in trying to keep Sangju with a ‘grip’ in the K-league Classic and seemed to be one of the first names on the team sheet every week.
The Kim Byung Ji award for ‘haircut of the year’.
Obviously the great man himself would have been the winner of this award but he contacted me to ask not to be included amongst the nominations stating that he felt “one of the young boys should get some recognition”. So the award goes to
Runner-up – Kang So Il – Kang has sported some pretty nifty hairstyles in his short time in the K-League even threatening Kim Byung Ji himself with a mullet once, but this season he decided to sport a Ballotelli-esque Mohawk. In itself not too ridiculous a hairstyle but when put in the rather conservative environment of the Pohang Steelers squad it did make him more than stand out.
Winner – Server Djeparov – I am of the firm belief that the essential equipment for a footballer are boots, gloves (if Greek) and maybe a gum-shield if you are playing against Lee Chun Soo. But never should a footballer need an Alice band! Unfortunately though this year Seongnam’s “talismanic” number 10 has needed such an item to keep his flowing locks from interfering with his craft and guile!
The Stella Artois “reassuringly expensive” award.
Runner-up – Everton/Rafael – Runner-up could go to any of Seoul’s foreign front line, with perhaps the exception of Molina, but the main culprits have to be Everton and Rafael Costa. Rafael was brought in during the close season to replace the departing Dejan and has been a bit of a disaster failing to score a single league goal. During the transfer window he was loaned out to Ponte Preta with Everton coming in the opposite direction. Although he got off to a good start with a goal on his debut Everton has been somewhat of a disappointment especially for those fans who remember him playing in the colours of Seongnam. And in fact up until his move to Seoul Seongnam fans used to sing about having “a team full of Evertons” one would imagine not any more.
Winner – Server Djeparov – It’s a second win on the night for Djeparov. On his return to the K-League Djeparov has commanded one of the highest wages for a foreigner in the league which considering he now plays for a citizen club is some feat. He has hardly ‘set the heather on fire’ with his performances. There have been some classic moments for him in a Seongnam shirt, namely his Prilo-esque penalty against Ulsan and his dramatic last minute equalizer against Suwon but unfortunately these are about all he’s contributed. He is still idolized by the fans though and they will be sad to have seen the last of him at Tancheon but his over-inflated salary will, hopefully, be put to good use in the search for a replacement.
The honey butter chips fad of the year award.
Runner-up – Selfie sticks – Just as both honey and butter have no place together in a bag of crisps so too do ‘selfie sticks’ have no place in a football stadium. What seemed to start as 1 or 2 people taking photos of themselves eating luxurious food in Itaewon quickly became the must have accessory of the year. I can almost understand the logic behind taking photos from distance in a restaurant, almost, but I can’t see the logic behind them in a football stadium. It would seem to me that merely asking someone behind you to take a photo would in fact be simpler as opposed to taking numerous photos posing like you have just discovered a winning lotto ticket while the match, and hopefully the reason you came to the stadium in the first place, rages on behind you.
Winner – Jeonnam – It started with the renaming from Chunam to Jeonnam, then came the blog (which was really funny), and the elevated league position at the beginning of the season. Yes the plan seemed to be working, people started talking about Jeonnam v Jeonbuk as a derby and the performances on the pitch were also getting them talked about for all the right reasons. But just like honey chips, after a while things got stale and people started wondering what the fuss was all about. They were after all still Chunnam Dragons and it wasn’t long until they started sliding down the table. Narrowly pipped for a top group spot by Ulsan they ended up playing the rest of the season out with nothing to play for against teams battling for survival. The news that their manager was leaving didn’t come as too much surprise and actually was probably a suitable way for the ‘fad’ to end the year.
The Kit Kat import of the year award.
Not every import into Korea is successful and the K-League is no exception, we have seen our fair share of Nokias down the years but every now and again their is a Kit Kat success. Below are my winners for 2014.
Runner-up – Santos : The diminutive Brazilian joined the long ranks of Brazilians who have come to Korea to ply their trade in the K-League, most it would be fair to say, have not been the success their employers wanted or indeed their agents promised. In Santos though Suwon look to have a player. This season’s top scorer in the league, he also has the task of playing in front of fans who have witnessed ‘characters’ such as Bosnar and Stevo in recent years and who have high expectations for their foreign recruits. Santos hasn’t disappointed, a season which saw him score 18 goals in all competitions was good payback for the faith placed in him. Santos was no stranger to the K-League having had a successful spell with Jeju United back in 2010~2012. Quick footed and with a good eye to goal he is definitely proof that good Brazilian strikers are available to K-League teams.
Winner – Osmar : Coming from Thailand and with the unenviable task of replacing FC Seoul legend Adi, Osmar had a lot resting on his shoulders. As Adi was making some ridiculous farewell gesture to the Seoul fans while being hoisted aloft in a moving crane Osmar must have been wondering what he he gotten himself into. His Seoul career started reasonably well, solid in defence he undoubtedly had a football brain. He seemed to stroll through matches when everyone else around was running around like a headless chicken (no Suwon Bluewings pun intended). He arrived on the back of a Thai league and cup double and although he would have been disappointed not to have added to his medals this season he does look like he has the potential to follow in Adi’s footsteps. The highlight of his season, and the main reason for him winning this award, has to be his last minute goal at Jeju which secured an unlikely ACL spot for Seoul for next season and stopped their season being a disaster.
The Gangnam Stlye we should’ve broken YouTube award for song/performance of the season.
Every now and again something special happens, something magical that then appears on YouTube for the world to watch on loop. We’ve had Gangnam Style, we’ve had Susan Boyle and we’ve had cats hugging and sleeping next to dogs. For me though these two videos should have been up there too.
Runner-up Stellar at Bucheon : Every K-League team can only dream of a marketing team like Bucheon FC. From their little red books, to the female team announcer, the “Thank you very match” booklet at the end of the season and some free handcream they really know how to work off the field. But by booking Stellar for the opening match performance they won the hearts of many. Stellar, for those of you who don’t know, were at this point in time huge news for a rather provocative video and dance routine. One of those ones that gets banned on MBC one day but they amazingly have a new ‘censored’ routine to run with on SBS the next day. Not only did Marketing convince the girls to don the red of Bucheon but they also had them tour cafes in the days leading up to the match handing out flyers advertising the game. It was a masterstroke and was undoubtedly the reason for their largest home crowd of the year. Now if only they could actually get the players interested….. Anyway gives me an excuse to link the video below.
Winner Seongnam FC fans for ‘the girlfriend’s birthday’ song : How can you top Stellar I hear you ask. Well it takes a lot but the winner has to be the Seongnam FC fans for coming up with the ‘girlfriend’s birthday’ song. The lyrics go along the lines of “It’s my girlfriend’s birthday, but I’m here at the football” something I’m sure we’ve all loved to be able to say to our respected girlfriends down the years. They might not have the numbers of the Suhoshin or the colour of the Mad Green Boys but there is no beating them for dedication and passion. Seongnam have been on a downward spiral for a couple of seasons now but these guys have kept going to games and keep the atmosphere as energetic as they can. Their song can be viewed below.
by @Seoulbhoy thanks to @korearacing for both contribution and Soju.