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From The Stands: Pride of Pusan (Part 2)

Pride of Pusan, Busan IPark, From the Stands
The most fanatical of Busan's supporters are the 'Pride of Pusan' fan group, who have remained active even as recent games have been played behind closed doors. Todd Wilde spoke with Lee Dowon about how the supporters group has been coping whilst fans have been unable to attend games in person.

Part 1 of this 'From the Stands' feature is available here.

Behind Closed Doors

What have Pride of Busan been doing to support the club with no fans?

On the morning of every home game, P.O.P has been putting up banners in the stadium, to show the players that the fans are still behind them - at least in spirit. We have a group of 3-4 members that do this together, putting up ten banners takes about two hours. It's really hard work in the summer heat, but playing futsal on the pitches outside the Gudeok is much harder! We go to a restaurant nearby for milmyeon (a filling cold noodle soup originating from Busan) afterwards to discuss the upcoming game.

Pride of Pusan

This is all we can do unfortunately, because we cannot visit the club or clubhouse, we cannot meet players and we have until recently been unable to meet with each other because COVID-19 was a problem in Busan back in March and April. But at least now we are getting back to a sense of normality.

When you couldn't attend games, how were you watching matches?

Some of us have been watching the games at our homes - either alone talking on a group chat, or with family. However, once Busan had the COVID situation under control (there were 2 cases in a month within the city at the time of the interview), we met in Seomyeon or Jeonpo-dong (an area well known for coffee shops and independent restaurants) to watch games together in a bar or a restaurant. This gave us a sense of community to watch games together and really support the team.

We could not watch the game at the stadium and we still cannot chant - however feeling the highs and lows of football together makes us feel much better than watching alone. Watching games together is the most important part of football supporting - so we must continue to support the boys even if we cannot be there.

What did you think about the stadiums being closed?

There are mixed opinions amongst Busan IPark's fanbase. I personally believe it was the right decision to keep stadiums closed. If one attendee has COVID-19 and attends a game, it potentially can screw up the whole football league since games could not resume until contact tracing has been completed for anyone who attended the game and sat near the active case. The priority for the league is to finish the schedule, which I understand.

On the other hand, the government allowed beaches and water parks to reopen (as early as June) but stadiums could not. This doesn't really make much sense, as you can spread out easily at stadiums and be forced to wear a mask, which you can't do at water parks. These double standards have annoyed some of the supporters because there is no logic to the government's decision making. How can sitting in an open air stadium be more dangerous than going a confined space, such as a cinema?

Busan IPark, Gudeok Stadium, COVID-19 football, COVID-19 soccer

On 2nd August, Busan's Gudeok Stadium finally re-opened to fans after the Korean government allowed stadiums to admit spectators in cities with low COVID-19 numbers. Whilst most K League stadiums decided to open at 10% capacity, Busan IPark elected to make only 574 tickets available to supporters, 5% of the stadium's overall capacity.

What do you think about the stadiums being re-opened at 5% capacity?

It's really good to be back. I can hear the players' voices and screaming at each other, which is really strange because we would usually just chant and hear other fans chanting during the game. I was really concentrating on the game because we cannot use our energy to chant due to the new rules, which meant I actually got more frustrated than at games in previous seasons!

I think 5% is too low, but I guess that the club doesn't have the money or resources to cover 10% of capacity. I also wish that the club could open the supporters zone behind the goal, in addition to the seats in the main stand. Under the new rules, we can clap and play the drums, so we'd like to make more atmosphere at future home games.


How often does the group travel away from home?

Our away games leader, Park Jae-woo, lives in Seoul and travels to every away game. Some supporters can't travel to midweek games because of work, but because the club makes it easy for us to go to away games, we can do it affordably.

Is there a supporters bus for away games?

Yes. Busan IPark looks after the most dedicated fans really well, as they run a free bus for every away game. As long as at least 18 supporters take the bus, the club will pay to take supporters directly from the Gudeok Stadium or Seomyeon to the away ground. It's free for all Busan supporters, whether they are in P.O.P or members of the public, you just need to fill out the application form on the club website, and they will add you to the list.

After each away game, fans show their appreciation to the team before boarding the supporters bus home. Here, two supporters take their photo with Kim Moon-hwan after Busan's 1-0 away loss at Jeonnam in April 2019.

What's your best experience as an away fan?

My favourite memory was going to Daejeon away in May 2019, as it was such a strong Busan performance. We thrashed them 5-0 and I will always remember Soma Novothny's performance - he was on fire that day.

IPark players pose with supporters after Busan's away win over Asan in August 2019

Perhaps the most memorable away day last season was our away trip to Anyang. Only a small group of us went, and it was really heavily raining. I sang for 90 minutes, because I had to have the voice of a dozen fans! For some people this would be a terrible experience, but for me it was special, because the intimate atmosphere made it feel like it was our small group against the world!

Also, when there is a special occasion for a player, we do our best to celebrate it. For example, we might give a player a cake if it is their birthday, like we did with Park Jong-woo at an away game last season:

What was your worst experience?

The Seoul Promotion/Relegation Playoff in 2018. It was disappointing in so many ways. Disappointing because we had a good season. Disappointing because we felt we could beat them. Disappointing because we were the better team over two legs, and just had 20 minutes of madness. We still hate FC Seoul to this day.

How about your relationship with other teams? Is it frosty or friendly?

We actually have a really good reputation amongst other fan groups, and we do our best to build friendly relations and links with fans at other clubs, such as those at Pohang and Ulsan. The only team we really bitterly dislike is FC Seoul, largely because of their history of stealing a team away from Anyang. If you put those two things together, you can understand why people chanting with P.O.P were wearing shirts of every team in the league at the Promotion/Relegation Playoff against FC Seoul in 2018!

P.O.P were joined by a large contingent of supporters of other K League clubs, wearing their own team colours, in the away end of the Relegation/Promotion Playoff second leg against FC Seoul in December 2018.

Following Pride of Pusan

Where can we follow you on social media?

You can follow us on Instagram and on Facebook.

Where can we find you at games.

Look for the banner 'Pride of Pusan' and the silly banners of players, which change each home game! We are always in the West Stand, behind the goal at every home game, and a group of us will be there at every away game too. We are very friendly, so if you say hello we will welcome you. We are also at attendance at Korea National Team games, where you will find us with the usual banner and cut-outs of Busan IPark players that have been named in the Taeguk Warriors squad.

현재 부산에서 동아시안컵 진행중입니다. 어제는 이정협선수가 교체출전하였고 김문환 선수는 뛰지않았지만 우리쪽으로 와서 인사하고 갔습니다. 사실 경기장 인원수 보고 깜짝놀랐습니다. 이렇게까지 경기장이 조용할수있나 선수들이 힘을 낼수있는것은 관중의 응원입니다. 다소 날씨가 춥지만 경기장에많은분들이 오셔서 함께한다면좋을꺼라 생각해봅니다. P.O.P는 @busanreddevilsjeokho 와 함께 우리고장에서 열리고 우리선수가출전하는 대회를준비하고 참여하고있습니다. 대회끝나는날까지 우리선수가 부상없이 잘뛰고 벤투감독에게 신뢰받을수있게 응원부탁드립니다^^ #부산아이파크써포터즈 #부산붉은악마적호 #최물로국대썰 #최물로간판 #김문환 #이정협
A post shared by busaniparkp.o.p (@busaniparkp.o.p) on

The fan group is full of passionate veterans, but we would love more fans to come to Busan games regularly. We are setting up one sub-group of P.O.P that is specifically to welcome younger supporters, called Joven so that young supporters can support the team together. Feel free to message me on Instagram if you'd be interested in attending a match with us.

This feature was originally published as an Early Access article for Patreon Subscribers. Click on the link below to learn more about K League United's Patreon offerings:

KLU Patreon

With thanks to Lee Dowon and other members of Pride of Pusan for their time and support in writing this article.

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