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Why We Love The K League - The Writers

For many years now, K League United have been providing content for all things K League. In that time, we have had many writers contribute to the website. Not all of our writers live in Korea, K League United is truly an internaitonal affair. 

Michael Redmond sat down with a couple of writers this week and asked them, 'What was the moment that made you fall in love with the K League?'. Here are some of the results.

Branko Belan

Team: Jeju United 

I moved to Jeju in 2016 on the insistence of a friend, and we immediately agreed on getting season tickets. Shortly thereafter, Jeju World Cup Stadium became our second home on the island. It was a season to remember as well, as the islanders finished third overall and qualified for the Asian Champions League the following season. 
 
It was the year Tangerine Taka was born, as the club transformed into an offensive juggernaut, but was just as prone defensively, so there was never a dull moment in the stands. Before every home match, there would be a friendly wager, and Andrew Welsh, one of my best friends ever, and myself always made the same prediction. "Jeju to win; both teams to score" became our mantra, and then we would marvel as the likes of Marcelo Toscano, Song Jin-hyung, Kim Ho-nam, and Lee Keun-ho would mercilessly smash the ball past every 'keeper in the league. It was love at first sight. 
 
Not only was the stadium a place for football, it was a place to gather with friends and fellow fans. Many have since moved on, but the common bond still remains. 
 

 

Dowon Lee

Team: Busan IPark

I fell in love with the K League because I can support my local team in the stadium and communicate with the players without any barriers. These things cannot be general if I follow a European team. And having soju and beer after the game with my people in the supporter group is also a big moment.

Matthew Binns

Team: Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors

Having been allocated Jeonju as the destination of my new 'Korea path' to commence in the latter half of 2014, I quickly set about learning more of my new local club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors through FIFA 2013 and Football Manager in preparation for my arrival. Turns out they weren't bad, even if they only had the two titles back then. All I could tell you though was that Lee Dong-gook seemed pretty decent. Finally arriving in August, going to watch Jeonbuk in those final few rounds of the season admittedly felt like I was basking in someone else's glory as they strolled to their third title. It was enough though for me to want to be involved and I quickly set about getting myself and the friends I had made geared up for the 2015 season, acquiring the new kits and planning the trips to the stadium.
 
The opener, against FA Cup winners Seongnam FC, saw us witness a 2-0 victory courtesy of new signing Edu. There's something still to be said about those early days of supporting K League where I knew very few players on the pitch, otherwise an older, more cynical me would have perhaps noticed and felt concerned by his Suwon Samsung Bluewings history, but assured by his goalscoring prowess. Instead, I found my friends and I initially ironically cheering on a player believing he would not be able to make an impact, and slowly realising he wasn't half-bad. Edu would bag 11 that season, before leaving in the summer for China. 
 
While memories of more notable matches that season and beyond would further set the foundations for the supporter I am now, the 2015 season was where it truly began for me as both a Jeonbuk fan and a K League follower.
 

Mike Brandon

Team: Ansan Greeners

"There is no single moment, football to me is unconditional love, like one holds for a family member... and being an Everton AND Ansan fan, it is a family member you do not like but will still do anything for! However, there are still some individual moments that I carry with me as special... my son's first game, travelling on the team coach in the Hallelujah era, the beautiful football cooked up during the 2019 season... but the one moment that stands out more than any other is winning the league on the final day in the Mugunghwa era. Ansan needed to win to secure the K2 title... and did so by coming from 2-0 down away at Line 4 Derby rivals Anyang. 

If it had been any other league it would have been epic... but for the dozen Ansan away fans present, it is a one-off moment of joy. Note, this game has been somewhat lost to history with many websites now recording the game as being between Anyang and Asan, but the K League Challenge trophy still sits proudly in the Wa Stadium, with Han Ji-ho's winner being like a hidden piece of footballing history for the city."

 

Michael Redmond

Team: Seoul E-Land

This will be my sixth season of following Seoul E-Land. What started as a hobby, writing to keep myself occupied in Korea. It has turned into a true love for the team. There are many memories that I reflect upon to make me smile at the good times. But for the moment which made me fall in love was probably Busan away back in 2018. 2018 was the first year I started to go to away games, now in 2022 I book tickets in seconds to get to places. But I remember back then it being a long and tedious affair. 

We arrived in Busan and stayed over the Saturday evening as the game was on the Sunday. I never forget when I walked into the away end with my friend Antonio, and the look of shock from the Seoul E-Land fans. "You have really come to watch us play?" were the first words that came out of them. That game then became 90 minutes of us all sharing refreshments and having a sing song. Those fans are still the same fans I go to every game with today. That was the moment that started the love I have for the team. We lost that day, but the memories continue to live on.


Nathan Sartain

Team: Gangwon FC

When Premier League football was a drab, behind closed doors affair, I wanted to try something new. So, with the K League running and easy to watch here in the UK, I started checking it out in the hopes of finding a team to follow. As an Evertonian, I quite wanted to find a team of a similar ilk (struggles to win trophies, seems to falter compared to ambitions), and settled on Gangwon after watching them get thrashed 5-0 to Ulsan, knowing that it’d at least be entertaining to continue watching their games. 

But what started as casual bit of curious enjoyment began to turn into genuine affection once the season progressed, and when I started writing about Gangwon. I have a tendency to throw myself into new things I get passionate about, and this was no exception. So, the team I initially started to follow out of a mix of sympathy and intrigue had become a proper second-team in a short space of time, and as a result my love for the league, and Gangwon, started, something I properly realised when I found myself celebrating and emotionally invested in their first win of the 2021 season at home to Incheon. Given I make sure to meet the extremely early morning commitments of some Gangwon games, I’d say that love has persisted.


Paul Neat

Team: Daejeon Hana Citizen

I fell in love with K League straight away. My first game was the 2013 season opener, FC Seoul as K League champions versus Pohang Steelers who had won the FA Cup the season before. I remember walking into a packed Seoul World Cup Stadium and seeing all the flags, banners, and scarfs flying in the air and the sound of the drums and the chanting. I didn't really know what to expect exactly but I remember being a little bit taken by surprise by how raucous that south stand was at Sangam. 
 
In terms of falling in love with Daejeon, that would have to be my first away match which was against Incheon United. We won 2-1 thanks to goals from Lee Woong-hee and João Paulo. It was a perfect, early spring afternoon. I went into Itaewon in Seoul for a few pre-match drinks then on to Incheon for the game. It was a solid away performance from Daejeon and gave us hope that it might not be too bad of a season after all. Afterwards, midfielder Kim Byung-suk came into the crowd to speak to someone and so I took that as an opportunity to get a picture with him. Daejeon were relegated that season, despite a late purple patch of form, but that didn't matter because I was hooked. 

 

Ryan Walters

Team: Jeonnam Dragons

Although it wasn't my very first K League match (that was in Busan in 2013), I well and truly fell in love with K League when I went to my first Jeonnam Dragons game in 2015. The stadium being all of a 10 minute walk from my apartment was a great start, but it was more the connection between the supporters and the players. We Jeonnam fans can't claim to have the biggest numbers nor loudest traveling section, but there's a bond between the people of Gwangyang and this club unlike anything I've felt anywhere else.  
 
After a first half spent in "the good seats," I convinced the group I was with to move behind the goal with the supporters for the second half and joined in with as many songs as I could with *very* limited Korean at the time. Strangers became fast friends trying to help me learn the songs, sharing chicken and beer, and doing plenty of shouting along with the singing. We didn't even win the game, but I was hooked and made the decision to start K League United then and there. (I also bought a kit before the next match so I wouldn't be in my Chicago Fire gear anymore.)
 

Shibajee Das

Team: Pohang Steelers

My version of the story will be a bit different from everyone, having covered K League from abroad. K League matches were not broadcasted in India, before the emergence of K League TV. However, my earliest memories of Korean clubs are the likes of Pohang Steelers, FC Seoul, Suwon Samsung Bluewings playing in the AFC Champions League. 
 
I used to occasionally watch it during my school days. When I decided to work for KLU, Pohang were naturally my first choice because of their rich history plus the red and black colours (I am also an AC Milan fan). I was lucky that the club was still uncovered and have enjoyed being more involved with the league since then. 
 
I hope to make it in person in Korea soon and would especially love to visit the Steel Yard :) 


 

FNR

 

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