The game in question was the huge six-pointer between Seoul and Incheon United as both teams battled for survival in the K-League One. The final “Gyeongin Derby” of 2018 did not disappoint as both teams threw everything into attacking the match and with Incheon clinching all 3pts it was the perfect day for a ‘view from the away end’.
Seoul World Cup Stadium is probably one of the most, if not the most, accessible stadiums in Korea. It is located on the busy subway Line 6 and is right on top of World Cup Stadium Station. There is a GS both inside the station and at the top of the main escalator as you come out for those who wish to have a pre-match refreshment or don’t like queuing for their beers. On this occasion I arrived later than hoped and so it was straight to the ticket box after the ubiquitous ‘4 for 10,000’ had been purchased. I advise filling your bag from the GS inside the station as the selection of beers on offer in the one across from the ‘fan zone’ leaves a lot to be desired.
At Seoul there are a couple of ticket boxes with the home fans using the larger one at the top of the main stairs and the away fans generally queuing for their briefs at the one nearest Gate 12 (the away end). Prior experience had taught me that the one at the home end was the best option for a swift transaction even if it did mean having to stand directly underneath the most obnoxious loudspeaker this side of the DMZ. With tickets secured I made my way to Gate 12 and lo and behold there was a huge queue of frustrated Incheon fans as I passed the ticket box, few of whom had any chance of seeing kick-off.
The ‘away day’ experience at Seoul World Cup Stadium is ever so slightly different from that at the other end of the stadium from the ticket queue to bag searches and even access to an aperitif during the game.And so it was that as I approached the gate I opened my bag for the ticker collector to search with her unawares that I had several cans hidden on my person. I was accompanied by both my wife and niece and it was the latter who commented that when she was young and had imagined acting as an adult it really didn’t involve smuggling beer past a part-time schoolkid to avoid having to drink from a paper cup. Surprisingly that is exactly when I always thought being an adult was.
As well as being one of the easiest stadiums to get to the World Cup Stadium also has great views for both home and away fans something, unfortunately, most other grounds don’t offer. That, however, is where the ‘customer service’ ends. With two GS stands available, Seoul almost always keeps one closed resulting in snaking queues of punters desperate for a palate-wetting beer or soft drink. This restriction seems to be in operation regardless of opposition as a similar scenario was evident during a recent visit of K-League Champions Jeonbuk. This would only be a minor annoyance were it not for the bag search limiting the coveted treasure of a smuggled cold beer especially during the summer months when wearing a jacket would draw too much unwanted attention. If you manage to persevere and finally get served you are met with the choice of Cass, Budweiser or Kronenbourg Blanc which is kinda of like being asked to choose between working overtime or having dinner with the in-laws. As if the beer selection was not pain enough the GS staff like to add salt to the wound by insisting on pouring it into a paper cup with the result being a cup of frothy liquid which might once have resembled a beer.
As mentioned above the game finished 1-0 to Incheon and it was a great opportunity to be in among their passionate fans instead of watching them at the Incheon Football Stadium from the halfway line. They are a vocal group that’s for sure with their ‘fan leader’ being a pretty charismatic character, the vest-wearing ‘ultra’ next to me was a different story though, given it was almost -1 for most of the game, there is such a thing as trying too hard. Incheon legend Lee Chun-soo was among the crowd at the match and spent most of HT posing for smiling selfies with the fans. I may have been in their end but there are limits to how far even I will go to appear ‘one of the crowd’ and so with my integrity intact I headed for the GS to see if the queue had diminished.
Highlights : Great view and can’t beat the convenience of being on one of the main Seoul subway lines.
Lowlights : Beer searches and only having the single GS kiosk open.