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Seoul E-Land Find Themselves Back on the Rocky Road to Glory

It should have been the start of a new era for Seoul E-Land. A run of games in a newly rebranded 'Mokdong Leoul Park' Stadium would have given the Leopards a new chapter in their still rapidly growing history book. However, due to issues with the pitch which has already been well documented, Seoul now once again find themselves back on the road in the 2022 K League 2. 

With the idea now that Seoul will not play back in Mokdong until at least late April or May, Seoul have seen a number of fixtures change. Seoul fans will once more see their team represent their white away shirt for a few more games, rather than their famous blue. Michael Redmond looks at how Seoul got to this position, and what is to be expected in the next coming weeks.

How Did We Get Here?

March 19th, 2022, Mokdong Stadium, Seoul. The flags were all put out. The new seating section and food trucks were all lined up and waiting for eager fans to see their team play in their newly established home. A buzz was felt outside the stadium, as fans lined up to punch their tickets into the ground. You could sense that this was the start of something new, and maybe something special. 
Seoul E-Land played their first of many games in Mokdong Leoul Park on March 19th, 2022
Moving from Jamsil to Mokdong was always going to be a challenge for both the team and the fans. For starters, you are moving a club from one side of the city to another. Where the positive is that you can establish a new fanbase over in Mokdong, it adds worry amongst many Jamsil residents of when football will return to their local area. Regardless of this, Seoul pulled out all the stops in the fan experience department to make the day memorable. 

The game kicked off and there was immediately an issue with the pitch. Mokdong Stadium was originally an artificial setup, however, Seoul was given the green light to turn it to grass due to the K League regulations. The field was put down in November of last year and still had issues in March. Cold weather and rain the night previously did not help the situation, as well as the fact that a lot of teams have all had issues with their pitches due to the 2022 season being the earliest start in K League history. All these issues boiled over and caused visible problems on the day. 

Seoul played out a stalemate draw with Chungnam Asan on that day, with FC Anyang to come to town the week after. 

One More Match in Jamsil...

It came out days later that Mokdong could not host any more games for the foreseeable future until the grass was improved. That presents a problem for Seoul. The Chungnam Asan game was the first of four home games in a row. Seoul had to think fast. News sources came out throughout the week that Seoul were going to play games in Uijeongbu, a city in Gyeonggi-do, north of Seoul. However, that information came out to be incorrect. Seoul were only looking into Uijeongbu as a last resort. 
Seoul Olympic Stadium (Jamsil Leoul Park) will always be the home of Seoul E-Land
Their main goal was to play back in the Seoul Olympic Stadium, the ground they called home. In between the multiple BTS and SEVENTEEN concerts, Seoul managed to pencil themselves in to face FC Anyang where it all began for them back in 2015.

In what was a busy week for Seoul E-Land, they injected nostalgia into the fans and let them watch one more game in their home stadium. A welcoming sight for many a fan who thought they may have seen their last game in that ground before refurbishment. The Anyang game ended in another 0-0 draw, but at least it wasn't the turf that was the problem in that game. 

Bags Are Packed Once More

Seoul now have a run of four away games in a row. That could also stretch to six. Seoul's home game against Jeonnam Dragons on Saturday, 2nd April has moved to Gwangyang, giving the Dragons home-field advantage. Their midweek fixture after that was fortunately with Bucheon 1995. A team not too far away from Mokong or Jamsil, if you compare it to the other teams in the league. That game will be played in Bucheon Stadium. The games do not mean that Seoul have given up their home fixture against these teams, it just means the reverse fixture in Mokdong will be played later in the year. 

What follows Seoul then are two games which were always scheduled to be away, Daejeon Hana Citizen in the Daejeon World Cup stadium, followed by Busan IPark in the Asiad Main Stadium. Two difficult games which don't help that they will be away from home support. 
Over the years, Seoul have had some mixed results in Gwangyang when they faced Jeonnam Dragons
 The next game after that is still a questionable one. The turf will need to be inspected if they are to play back at Mokdong and it still might not get the green light by the time that Gyeongnam FC roll into town on April 23rd. This itself brings its own challenge in itself if Mokdong is still not playable. Gyeongnam have not been playing their games in Changwon so fair this season. Started the year in Miryang, followed by a stint in Jinju. Gyeongnam will be calling Jinju their home around the time of the Seoul fixture and questions will be asked if they could use that stadium in Jinju if Mokdong is not ready. 

There is still no official news on what will happen with the Gyeongam game If Mokdong is not ready and it can be played away, Seoul could see themselves playing Gyeognam in Jinju, followed by Gwangju away the week after. Making it a total of six straight games away from home. It might be time to spend some mileage points for some fans.  


When They Finally Return to Mokdong

If Seoul plays all six games away from home by May 17th when they are expected to welcome Gimpo FC in the capital, they would have played a total of ten league games away. To put that into perspective, there are only twenty away games in the K League 2 season this year. Gimpo will be matchday 13 for the Leopards, meaning that only two games prior were in front of the Seoul faithful. 
With that being said, it means that when Seoul get to the business end of the season, they will have an abundance of home fixtures as well as home-field advantage. If Seoul are to be competing this year, this could come as an advantage for the capital club.


Moving Forward

What's done is done now in regards to Mokdong and the issues it arose, for now. Moving forward, it is important that Seoul as a team keep their focus and do not let the issues off the pitch affect their play. Seoul has wide support from all over the world, and they need their love now just as much as ever. 

One silver lining this year is the welcoming back of away fans in K League stadiums. Seoul fans are now invited back into stadiums to watch their team, rather than sitting there quietly in the home end and hoping that if they win, it is not a 90th-minute screamer. 
Chung Jung-young will look to guide his Seoul E-Land team to sucess in his thrid year in charge of the side.
Only time will tell what will happen with this Seoul team this year, they have only lost one game in six which is not a bad start given all things considered. One thing that is worth pointing out though is, with everything that is happening this year in regards to pitch issues, early starts, multiple away days and fixture congestion, it is important to remind yourself that this is just a game. Furthermore, it is a game that is there to be enjoyed with friends, with families or even alone. In a time where it is so easy to jump on a bandwagon and critique the first shortcoming we see, it is important to remember why we fell in love with the sport, to begin with. That is the joy that we find in it. 

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