If there is one stadium in K-League that everyone needs to visit it is the Incheon Football Stadium. It’s as close to the pitch as a European stadium and what it lacks in atmosphere, depending on who is visiting I guess, it more than makes up for with it’s unobstructed views and the joy of sneaking a illicit bottle of Incheon’s finest into the stadium. The game in question was Seongnam’s first return to the ground since 2016 and armed with a bottle of So Sung Ju Makgeolli (소성주 막걸리) I made my way to the ground in full expectation of an enthralling 90 minutes of footballing action……how wrong I was!
Incheon is generally one of the toughest grounds to smuggle a beer into the away end and so with this in mind I met my friend outside the stadium for a beer or five before attempting to smuggle the makgeolli past the wannabe Secret Service agent who normally mans the Away gate. As we stood there we could hear that Incheon had laid on some pre-match fayre which sounded like a combination of Karaoke and Trot music, although to be honest I struggle to determine which is which 90% of the time. We would later find out that this was indeed the one and only Hong Jin-young who was performing, something I would have risked losing my beers to see. As we made our way to the gate, expecting to be padded down like Diana Ross in a New Orleans airport, we were surprised that on this occasion we could have waltzed through the ticket gate with a truckload as not an eyelid was batted, maybe they already knew what lay in store and thought it best to let everyone get drunk.
Incheon had started the season pretty poorly, even by their standards, and had parted ways with coach Jorn Andersen before the match. Seongnam on the other hand had just beaten both Pohang (home) and, even more impressively, Ulsan (away) and came into the match brimming with confidence and expectation. The previous weekend I had watched Seoul and Incheon play out a ridiculously boring 0-0 at Seoul World Cup Stadium and was sure that I wouldn’t see a repeat of that scoreline nor the bore-fest that caused it.
Due to injuries and Jaja’s penchant for ‘all you can eat buffets’ Seongnam would line up without any of their foreign players which, along with Nam’s habit of rotating, meant a rather unusual starting eleven took to the field for Seongnam. Incheon also hadn’t had their injury worries to seek at this point in the season either and they too would be without Nam Jun-jae and more importantly Stefan Mugosa, it’s fair to say that by this point my pre-match enthusiasm and dreams of a 7-goal thriller were disappearing faster than the contents of the green bottle hiding under my seat.
The first half came and went with pretty much nothing of note other than a half chance for the visitors, that was of course spurned. As the players trudged towards the tunnel and my friend trudged towards the “bar” for another couple of look-warm Cass we both wished we’d been a little more optimistic and daring when buying the refreshments earlier. For HT entertainment Incheon decided to copy a recent viral video from Japan where some ex-pros took on 100 or so schoolkids and scored, this is Incheon United though and for 10 minutes the schoolkids held their own (note: stick to Momoland!)
The 2nd half, predictably, was much the same as the first with neither team really looking like they wanted more than the solitary point from the game. Incheon would have a chance early in the half from a corner when they really should have scored from point-blank range but the lack of ability to even get the shot on target summed up the match overall. As the referee blew his whistle to bring the curtain down on a totally unmemorable 90 minutes of football the main regret was arriving too late to see Hong Jin-young perform before the game.