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'The Eleven' - A Groundhopper's Guide to the K-League Challenge Stadia

So a few days ago I went through my impressions of the K-League Classic stadia so I might as well do the same for the Challenge. This one is a bit tougher as, to be honest, the grounds in the Challenge all have some major issues. Most of them are old-fashioned civil stadiums with huge running tracks which seriously affect the view especially from behind the goal. Given that I was generally an away fan for most of these behind the goal was where I tended to be.

In the Challenge lack of atmosphere is also pretty much a given since a crowd of sometimes a few hundred people will struggle to do much in a ground built to hold tens of thousands.Facilities are not always the best either since refreshment kiosks seem to be very much optional and sometimes even the toilets are hard to track down.

This all being the case my review of the grounds is completely subjective based on how much I enjoyed visiting it and any number of arbitrary factors up to and including whether I got out of the wrong side of the bed that day. This time we will do it Top of the Pops style with a countdown from 11 to 1.

11. Daegu World Cup Stadium

If I'd been here on opening day when there were 30,000+ in attendance I might have a different view but this huge 60k seater arena on a midweek night with a few hundred in attendance is not a great place to watch football. It's simply too big, too empty and too far away from the pitch (thank you running track) to even compete. For the home fans they've put in some temporary stands so that might be better but there's so few of them that I'm left with the impression Daegu doesn't even deserve a football team. It's a pity for the guys on the pitch who are currently leading the league that the city couldn't care less.

10. Sangju Stadium

'Couldn't care less' just about sums up the whole Sangju experience. You get the impression the city doesn't know they are there. Meanwhile the rest of Korea doesn't even know Sangju is there. And they aren't missing much. Sangju was a ghost town when I visited and even the E-mart had decided to close on a Wednesday. An old concrete bowl with a rubbish view and my luck to see a terrible game. I was glad I wasn't staying here for too long. Even the addition of cheerleaders couldn't pull this one out of the mire.

9. Chungju Stadium

Chungju brings me into a run of a few stadia which are all very similar and about which I have no really strong feelings for or against. It's a big concrete bowl with a huge running track and next to no crowd to generate any atmosphere. What I saw of the town was nothing to write home about but there was nothing particularly wrong with it either.

8. Anyang Stadium

I vaguely remember attending this one when LG Anyang Cheetahs were tenants so I have some memories of it being fuller than it is now. As home of FC Anyang though it suffers from the same problem as everywhere else, it's simply too big for the side it hosts. The running track is huge and behind the goals is not a great place to watch from. Pictures of topless men on the floodlights lost it points with me as well.

7. Bucheon Stadium

Pretty much the same as Anyang if I'm being honest but this one wins out for a few reasons. It's easier to get to now it has its own subway stop, I won the prize draw during a visit there and the first time I went the crowd was 13,000 and I got to see Hello Venus shaking their stuff at half-time. When I went back as an away fan behind the goal it was business as usual.

6. Suwon Stadium

Yet another identikit civil stadium. From behind the goals you'd be hard pressed to tell if you were at Suwon, Anyang or Bucheon apart from the mini Hwaseong fortress replica behind your head. This one does have just about the best floodlights in world football though so it wins brownie points there. You also have the option of walking a few yards and taking in a baseball game at the fancy KT Wiz baseball arena which is part of the same complex.

5. Ansan Wa~

A tough one to call this. On one hand it's a pretty nice new stadium with all mod cons. On the other they have still gone for the running track which ruins the view and there aren't a hell of a lot of home supporters to generate any kind of atmosphere. It does seem to be getting better in that respect though so I'll be generous to it. At least its easy to get to being only a couple of minute walk from the subway stop. Watch out for the rats if you are in the away end though!

4. Leoul Park (Jamsil Olympic Stadium)

Another one that is almost impossible to place. The one I've been to most often over the past season but it's been exciting and annoying in equal parts. The good? Well you can't fault the view and E-Land have done a great job setting up the temporary stands to get the crowd close to the game. The bad? Just about everything else. There is zero atmosphere with the home fans mostly sitting in silence, the food and drink is brought to you by Itaewon-Hipsters-R-Us and the resident HT entertainment MC Phryme is someone you'd never tire of punching in the face. If it wasn't my team then this one would probably be in the bottom half of the rundown.

3. Goyang Stadium

To be honest, a lot of the criticism of the Daegu Stadium could also be pointed at Goyang but since it's only about half the size it's not anywhere near as bad. The attendances are just as bad if not worse though. For some reason though I have a better impression of Goyang than some of the other grounds. If they took away the running track it would be great. This one is occasionally used for National Team games and you can see why.

2. Sokcho Stadium

Inside the ground is pretty much a dump but you can't fault the location. There are not many stadia where you can spend all day hanging out on the beach and then head up into mountains in the evening to catch the game. The scenery around the ground is spectacular as well. If you don't pay too much attention to what's happening on the park or the massive running track then you can have a great day out here.

1. Changwon Soccer Centre

This is the only proper football-specific stadium in the Challenge and so pretty much wins by default. This is a great little facility with not just the stadium but also a whole host of training and other facilities tacked on. The view is excellent - no running track here - and the scenery is awesome. The only thing that lets it down is the lack of home support to really create an atmosphere. That's pretty much the same problem across the division though so Changwon steals the #1 spot.

1 comment

  1. Heading to my first Challenge match tomorrow and am happy to see it's your #1. Taking in Gyeongnam v Anyang and am pleased not to have to battle with a damn running track.


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