[Recent News][6]

K League 1
K League 2
FC Seoul
Korean National Football Team
Seoul E-Land
FA Cup
K-League Classic
Pohang Steelers
K League Challenge
Suwon Bluewings
Seongnam FC
Bucheon 1995
Suwon FC
Daejeon Citizen
Football Manager
From The Stands
K League Classic
Busan IPark
World Cup
Korean national team
Elimination Game
Asian Cup
KNT Women
K League All Star Game
Chungbuk Cheongju
Russia 2018
East Asia Cup
Qatar 2022
Power Rankings
Away Days
Club World Cup
Busan Transport
Inter Korea
North Korea
Ulsan Citizen
Yangpyeong FC
Asian Games
Chiangrai United
Cho Hyun-woo
Final A
Final B
Final Round
Goyang Citizen
Mokpo City
National League
Russia 2020
Winners Circle

"The Twelve" - A Groundhoppers Guide To The K-League Classic Stadia

Some of you may know that part of my footballing mission in South Korea has been to see a game at every stadium in the Korean footballing pyramid, which means forty-eight grounds across four leagues - K-League Classic, K-League Challenge, National League and K3. After months of spending time on buses and in love motels (as well as actually watching some football) I finally completed my challenge last weekend at Jeongseon to see Gangneung beat Daejeon Korail.

Since I have had the chance to soak up the atmosphere at every K-League ground I thought I would do a quick rundown of my thoughts on each stadium and let you know the ones I think are best (and worst). It's been a hard job to rank these as to be honest there are no real bad ones in the Classic and a lot depends on when I attended and the game I saw. The below is my personal ranking then based on the entire experience of my visit - not just the bricks and mortar of the stadium itself but also the match atmosphere, facilities and general feeling of the place. No doubt you will disagree...that's why we have a comments section! Here goes then.

12. Gwangju World Cup Stadium

A World Cup stadium shouldn't be this bad but my day in Gwangju was probably one of the poorest of the whole 48. A poor team, a poor crowd, expensive beer sold from one little stand at the other side of the ground and a playing surface that a local farmer would have questioned planting potatoes in all add up to this ground being a distant 12th in the ranking. Just to make matters worse the supermarket next to the stadium closed on one of the three days in the month the ground was actually being used.

11. Busan Asiad Stadium

A few years ago this would have been the worst so 11th is progress of a kind. The stadium itself is a 55,000 seater behemoth designed for the Asian Games which means it's got a corking great running track to boot. Watching from the main seating area needs binoculars so at least they've put in temporary stands for the home supporters to remedy that. No such luck for the away fans mind you. They've got cheerleaders too, but they don't really seem to know what they are doing. Add in regular attendances of a couple of thousand and you have a recipe for a pretty uninspiring stadium.

10. Daejeon World Cup Stadium

In theory this one should be ranked higher but I just find Daejeon, the city, and Daejeon, the team, so depressing that it's hard to give it too much credit. The ground feels like it hasn't really be that well looked after since 2002 and it's fraying at the edges a little bit. It's really the empty seats and lack of atmosphere that drag it so far down the list though. There's not many things worse than a 40,000 seater World Cup stadium with 3,000 people in it.

9. Gwangyang Stadium

Another one that feels very definitely old school but at least there's no running track this time. Not a stadium you are going to end up at by accident as Gwangyang and the ground itself take a little bit of finding but definitely worth a visit once. The only ground where I saw fencing behind the goals - but no idea if this was to stop the fans chucking things at the players or to protect the fans from the players wayward shots.

8. Tancheon Stadium

In a league filled with World Cup stadia and fancy-pants shiny new football-specific grounds Tancheon is always going to be a bit of a black sheep. This is an old-fashioned Korean-style civil stadium complete with running track. It gets bonus points just for being that though - it's got a little bit of character, shows its age with pride and has even got a funky roof. It'll be replaced with a new soccer-specific stadium soon enough but I'm sure many will miss it.

7. Incheon Seung-eui Arena

I'm sure this will raise a few eyebrows. Lot's of people rank this one highly but it just didn't capture my imagination on the day. To be fair, the game I saw was a dull end of season match between Incheon and Gyeongnam, it was cold and windy, the crowd was pretty sparse and there were a dozen visiting supporters. The lack of atmosphere made it difficult to enjoy the experience and the lack of one end meant the biting cold wind had nothing to stop it whistling round the ground. I'd love to do this one again when it was full and rocking, maybe for a National Team game if they ever play there.

6. Steelyard

I think this one suffered from raised expectations as everyone had told me that this is the best place to watch football in Korea. You can't beat the view at least - it's a proper football-specific stadium and small enough at 25,000 seats that you almost feel you could stick out a leg and trip the opposition winger. It's 25 years old now though and starting to feel a little bit dated and tired in some places. The atmosphere was a little disappointing as well. Maybe another one that suffered from the team on the park being a little off the pace this season.

5. Seoul World Cup Stadium

If you are just going on the basics of the stadium then this is probably technically the best ground in Korea - it should be as the home of the National Team - but I think there are a few things that let it down. It's another ground where you don't feel as close to the action as you should, and the atmosphere tends to be lacking for K-League games. Add to that their poor taste in tenants and it's hard to rank it any higher than fifth.

4. Jeju World Cup Stadium

Probably a surprise that I rank this one so highly but there was just something about it that I liked. Maybe it's the location right next to the sea, maybe it's the open feel of the stadium which gives you the impression you are in a modern day Collosseum or maybe it's just that there's an E-mart next door to stock up on beer but for whatever reason I just really liked this ground. Yes, it's a pain to get to but just going there makes you feel like you are on your holidays, Make a weekend of it (or in my case a four-day family trip) and you'll have a great time

3. Suwon World Cup Stadium

Probably the ground I have been to most in Korea and it's hard to beat the atmosphere generated by the Suwon fans in the North Section. They have probably the noisiest fans in the league and even on away trips they tend to make a bit of an atmosphere as well. On the downside, you don't feel quite as close to the action as at some other grounds and they took my beer off me at the gate. Boo!

2. Munsu World Cup Stadium

Ulsan might be having a bit on a mare on the pitch this year but I can't fault their ground. OK, it's a little bit out in the middle of nowhere but one you get inside it's a cracking view and again for a 45,000 seater feels amazingly compact. I might be being swayed a bit by the cheerleaders as well. I know many people hate them at football but at Ulsan they really seemed to work and managed to get their section fired up. Atmosphere behind the goal was lacking a bit but it was a midweek game in a poor season. Would love to see this place full and bouncing when Ulsan were challenging for the title.

1. Jeonju World Cup Stadium

Not only are Jeonbuk the best team in the league but they also provide the best day out. And it wasn't just the free beer and chicken that was on offer that day! It might hold 42,500 but the ground feels tight and close to the pitch and the Jeonju fans create a decent atmosphere. Not just the supporters groups behind the goals but even the 'normal fans' along the sideline join in with the chants and songs. The fans here seem to be proper football fans and they actually tend to have something to cheer. Jeonju just edges it for #1 then.

So there you go, my highly subjective take on the twelve K-League Classic grounds. Next up I will also review the eleven Challenge stadia. In the meantime, feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below.

1 comment

Start typing and press Enter to search