Anyang FC had played their opening K-League Two games of the 2019 season away from home to allow them to construct temporary stands around the running tracks and what better match to see them first hand than the visit of 2nd placed Busan I-Park. Anyang Stadium is best accessed by a 15~20 minute walk from Line 4’s Beomgye Station, although on the night in question that walk was closer to 60 minutes as one or two GS beers were sunk en route. The walk to the stadium takes you past some old style marts and it was in one of these that I procured for myself a bottle of Pocheon ‘Premium’ Makgeolli (포천 이동 막걸리), although given the 900W price-tag I quickly questioned its ‘premium-ness’.
The story of Anyang FC is one of a long journey back from having their club taken from them and effectively relocated, renamed and re-branded to FC Seoul. The current incarnation of the club was founded in 2013 and has been plying their trade in the various named 2nd tier since then, occasionally flirting with the playoffs. It was safe to say the return to their home stadium in 2019 hadn’t exactly been one full of success and they had only managed the solitary win from five matches before the visit of Busan I-Park for a 19:30 Monday night kick-off. Busan haven’t seen much success themselves of late and were, once again, playing the bridesmaid’s role in the K-League Two as they occupied 2nd spot behind the undefeated Gwangju FC.
The stadium may have had a new look and feel to it as I entered due to the new stands but there was nothing to distract from some of the greatest floodlights in Korea as they rose high into the night sky akin to something from a 1950s alien invasion movie
Onto the game itself and it would end up being a frustrating affair for fans and players alike from both teams as VAR would time and time again display why it should have stayed in the FIFA ‘ideas room’ and never made it within videoing distance of a football stadium anywhere. The first incident would occur halfway through the first half as Busan thought they had taken the lead only for the referee to consult VAR and deem the goal to be offside, or a foul, or something. I still have no idea! Just before half-time Anyang should have taken the lead but they snatched at it and the chance went a-begging much to the chagrin of the fans and mascot! The first half finished shortly after and as the players made their way up the tunnel and the cheerleaders took a much needed rest, I went in pursuit of something cold and beer-like…..I found Terra!
The first half may have finished goalless with VAR the main topic on most lips, and while VAR would still have a huge part to play in the second 45 minutes the floodgates were about to open and Busan were about to show why they were the 2nd best team in the league. It would take until the 80th minute for the deadlock to be broken and it would include one of the most unnecessary VAR reviews I’ve seen. A clear penalty to Busan, which wasn’t protested by any Anyang player, was subject to around 3 minutes of pointless screen-watching only for the original decision to, of course, be upheld. Lee Jeong-hyeop dispatched the spot-kick emphatically and the small travelling band of away fans erupted in joy, 6 minutes later they erupted in a mix of joy and disbelief as somehow Anyang’s Yang Dong-won let the ball slip through his hands and it was 2-0 Busan and surely game over. Unfortunately what was once “game over” is now in the hands of the VAR Gods as it’s anybody’s guess how much stoppage time will be added to a game and I think the days of matches lasting 90 minutes are soon to be a distant memory. With 90+4 on the clock Lee Jeong-hyup added his 2nd and Busan’s 3rd of the night with an absolutely beautiful strike that left the confidence-shredded Yang no chance. Ridiculously there was still time for Manuel Palacios to score a consolation goal, 90+6 being the recorded time, giving the fans at least something to cheer or in the case of one guy, something to selfie with a cheerleader!
With the game over all that was left was to a) google who the suited elderly gent was who glad-handed his way through the temporary stand at 2-0 (he’s the mayor) and b) decide where the post-match refreshments would be held and therefore leave me having to navigate a rather dreary and depressing Line 4 journey back to central Seoul. With it’s lack of bag searches, it’s copious amounts of non-decanted beer and the new temporary stand it’s safe to say that Anyang Stadium is my new favourite ‘other ground’ to visit. I might just need to stock up on something more potent than 900W makgeolli to get me through VAR again.