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From Seoul to Sunshine: The Adventures of a Seoul E-Land Fan Abroad Episode 1

It was six and a half years that I spent in the land of the morning calm. A journey which started at the tender age of 23 and ended just before I bounced into my 30s. Over those six and a half years, I had been a writer for K League United, following Seoul E-Land in their quest to climb into the K League 1. It was the summer of 2023 when I decided that my time in Korea was up and I needed to move on and in moving on, I ended up in Thailand.

Now you might be wondering or even confused as to why I am being so personal on what is a football news website, well let me fill in the gaps. Following the K League in Korea is very fun and the way the league is set up makes it quite easy to go to a stadium and enjoy yourself. However, I wanted to document what it is like for someone who is not in the country. Someone who still has a deep connection to the league. Someone who still has the same enthusiasm and joy for the weekend fixtures, even though he is no longer in the country. This is not going to be an ego-boosting series, simply just a different take from what I wrote about for many years before. Follow me on what will be the first of a little series where I run down what life is now like away from the K League and especially Seoul E-Land.

How Did We Get Here?

As stated before, it was six and a half years I spent in Korea. Most of the time was a great and memorable experience. There was always something to do and no two weekends were ever the same. However, that was the problem, the weekends. I found myself living for those weekends because of the workload from my other jobs during the week. I was burnt out. So, it was a cold morning in November, I remember it well. After an unfair dressing down from someone in management, I decided that my time in Seoul was up. My contract had me working up until the last day of June, which meant I had eight months to really think about the future. So here is what happened.

I decided to take six months off work, starting from that June. I thought that travelling the world would ease my mind and get me back into the Korean work lifestyle, but it did not. After going to America, exploring Southeast Asia, galavanting over Europe, and spending a lot of downtime in Seoul, I realized that Korea had passed me by. So what was next? Well, home was the plan, but fate had other ideas. After spending a month in Thailand, I realized that it was a place I would love to spend more time in. To cut a long story short, I was offered a position in a place which really suited me and then here we are, the Seoul E-Land columnist is now writing from Pattaya, a beach city 150 km from Bangkok.

Leave K League United?

Well, I didn't really know what I would do, to be honest. At first, I was open to the idea of handing over the Seoul E-Land baton to someone else who would like to have a go at documenting their successes and failures. However, as the off-season progressed and I was no longer in Korea, I found myself having that same amount of excitement for the start of a new season as I did years gone by. This is something I thought I would lose. Also, I find myself having a lot more time now than I did before. So those who have a keen eye may have seen that a lot more Seoul articles have been published so far this year, compared to the year prior.

I have decided to continue writing for K League United as it's something I've always enjoyed doing. It has also allowed me to express myself. Take this article for example. This hasn't been a spur-of-the-moment piece, it has given blessings to be published. K League United always wants to try something new, so here we are.

Never Far Behind

So let's fast forward to January 2024. My visa for Thailand has been approved and I am on a plane, ready to start a new chapter in my life. I thought I could avoid everything K League-related for the first few weeks, get my head around the wonders of Thailand and get settled. However, how wrong I was. No more than two days after I arrived in Thailand, so did Seoul E-Land. Of all the places the Leopards could have had a pre-season, it was Bangkok where they decided to go, no more than a two-hour drive from where I now reside.

Unfortunately, K League pre-seasons are not like the ones of Europe and are done behind closed doors, so there was no pre-season scouting for me, but this played on my mind for a while and bedded the seed in my head of thinking about Seoul E-Land once more.

So Let's Begin

Finally, we will actually discuss what this article should be about, and that is supporting Seoul from abroad. First of all, this has been made so much easier thanks to the wonders of K League TV. I have watched several games already on that website and it has never had any issues. So here we are at the first game of the season, and it is a tough one. An away trip down to Busan. So as the Seoul faithful made their way to Busan via KTX, I sat in my condo, looking out at the Gulf of Thailand. I linked up the trusty Mac to the TV and I was ready.

It was an odd sight, looking at fans shivering in the stadium, long padding and hand warmers being used. I was sitting with the Air con on full blast, trying to cool down. There was no Maxim coffee stick and ramen for me in this one, instead it was a glass of Coca-Cola, filled with copious amounts of ice. So the game kicked off and before I even had time to think, "Maybe if we lose by one or two goals, it won't be so bad" Seoul had the ball in the back of the net. It was Osmar who opened up the goal-scoring account for me in Thailand. Then pushed on 85 minutes of end-to-end K League football before Seoul turned on the magic again. Scoring two more goals and finished the opening game of the season with three points. Nice one!

The Mokdong Miracle

So Busan was special, a win away from home against a side that always has Seoul's number. However, round 2 would be more of a challenge as they faced off against Suwon Samsung Bluewings. This game crept up on me, to be honest. I had it on the back of my mind until about the Thursday before the game. This is when I started to get messages from both sets of fans.

It must be known I have a lot of friends who are Seoul fans and a lot who are Suwon. Suwon were the K League 1 team I would go and watch when Seoul were not playing, I never thought they would get relegated! The messages added the importance of the game for me and before you know it, it was Saturday evening and I was recording battle cries and posting them on Instagram. The importance of the occasion finally got to me and I was ready.

I say I was ready, the moment I woke up on that Sunday morning, I was a bag of nerves. However, that is football and you can not change that. Seoul managed to hold on and actually play some good football in the first half. I really thought we could get something out of this game and then, we did.

Bruno Silva, what a man. It was the quick thinking and feet of Ikoba to pass him the ball to blast it into the back of the net and Pattaya erupted. I live on the same floor as someone who is a fan of the Bundesliga as I hear him shouting in German every weekend at one game or another, but I gave his level of volume a run for its money when that goal went in. The best thing is, it wasn't as if it was a lucky goal, Seoul deserved it! I was ecstatic until the old Seoul returned and defensive errors caused Suwon to equalize.

Oh well, I thought. At least we took a point of Suwon who will be going back up this year. You don't even need to look at their team, just look at their fans, they could carry the worse team up a K League ladder. With head in hands, I watched the clock tick down. Injury time came and I honestly believe that Suwon was going to nab it. A claim for handball for Suwon was mentioned but quickly pushed away. I sat and watched as Seoul defended, passing the ball to midfield, moving the ball up the pitch, moving it further up, and further up, and suddenly Cho Dong-jae had the ball in the box and SEOUL JUST SCORED IN THE DYING MINUTES OF THE GAME! I was ecstatic, I haven't seen a Seoul injury-time winner since 2018 and this was special. We have gone and beaten Suwon Samsung Bluewings in the first time of asking. Welcome to the party pal!

I was surprised the condo security wasn't called for the noise I was making, the shirt I wore almost flew off the 22nd floor where I reside. This was special. What made things better was the fact that this put us on top again. I know it's only early days but there is no greater feeling than seeing your team at the top of the mountain.

On to the Next One

Well, two games down and two wins, both special games, both putting us top of the table. As for me, I might venture out for the next game. I have been nothing but an armchair supporter these past two weeks and I would like to watch Seoul play outside in the hot Pattaya sun.

Next up is Bucheon 1995, followed by Daejeon Korail in the Korean Cup. The joy of Seoul being in the K League 2 means no international break for the Leopards. They play every week now until the weekend of April 13th-14th when it is their week to take a break (13 K League 2 teams and all that). If Seoul can continue to play the way they have in the last two games then they will hate the idea of a break from football. Can this team finally give me what I desired for all those years in Korea? Only time will tell.

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