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Fans: Perth Glory Supporters Arrive in Korea After ACL Postponement

A group of dedicated Perth Glory fans made the 13-hour flight all the way from Western Australia to South Korea ahead of an AFC Champions League group stage match with Ulsan Hyundai. However, on the very day which they arrived at Incheon International Airport, it was announced by the AFC that the match was to be postponed.

The COVID-19 situation in South Korea is having a detrimental effect on most industries, football being no exception. As a result, the domestic K League season has been postponed indefinitely with a new date still to be confirmed.

Meanwhile, AFC Champions League matches have been rescheduled, some at relatively short notice. On Wednesday 4th March, A-League Premiers Perth Glory were set to take on K League side Ulsan Hyundai in Group F, only for the match to be called off.

Perth native and long-time Glory fan James McKenna and a group of friends had already departed Australia for the game, leaving them with no game to go to, despite the large financial outlay and distance travelled.

First of all, can you please tell us how long you have been a Perth Glory fan?

I've been a Perth Glory fan since 1996, since the beginning. My dad took me to one of the first games and I fell in love and have been going ever since, only missing a handful of games since then.

This is the first year Perth have qualified for the ACL. We qualified in 2013 but the AFC took the third spot away from Australia. We have always planned to go to our first ACL campaign so it's all very frustrating.

Perth are so far west that all away games are a long trip, a four-hour flight to Sydney for example. What’s the team’s away following like?

Our club has been around longer than any other team in the A-League as we competed in the old National Soccer League since 1996 so we have a few away fans who live in other cities. There always some away fans at our away games. Our main supporter group organise a tour of duty every season where they pick a couple of away games so fans can have a good presence with hundreds of fans there.

You came over to Korea for the ACL game with Ulsan, first of all, can you please explain the timeline - when you booked, when you came over when you found out the game was called off, and what your thoughts were?

We booked the flights in December as soon as we qualified and it was certain that we were coming to Asia for our first campaign. We planned to get the train down to Busan from Seoul and stay there for the game. We were first worried when our game against Shanghai got postponed. We found out the Ulsan game was going to be played behind closed doors a day before we left and I was heartbroken, to be honest as I’d been waiting for this for so long supporting my club means everything.

We were hoping for a miracle, things would change but then the day we arrived we found out the game was postponed altogether. We had a look at our options to cancel the trip before we left, however, as the Australian government hadn’t put a travel ban on Korea, Malaysian Airlines would not refund us and neither would Airbnb. We decided then we would come for the holiday and make the most of it. Airbnb gave us our money back for our Busan stay and we used it to book a place to further our stay in Seoul.

Where have you been in Korea and what have you been doing instead?

We have been going around Seoul checking the sights out. Just getting a feel for the place and eating lots of Korean food and drinking lots of Korean beers. We plan on going and seeing the palaces tomorrow. Hoping to see the DMZ as well.

There’s a Go Fund Me page set up to try and help you come back when the game is rescheduled for, could you tell me more about that, please?

The go fund me page was set up by a friend of mine, it wasn’t my idea but he knows me well. I've not been able to work for the last couple of years due to a back injury so I've been through a bit of a hard time lately and my good friend Danny, who I’m travelling with, is also out of work at the moment but had already booked before he was out of work. I don’t really think anything will come of it to be fair.

Given the choice, A-League Grand Final Winners or ACL Champions, what would you prefer?

We want to win everything. Glory fans all agree on one thing, that it’s us vs the rest of Australia and we wear our isolation with pride. But to me, conquering Asia is the pinnacle. It’s the most difficult competition we can win. Also, I'm a traditionalist and value winning the league higher than a two-game final series, especially given how much more difficult it is to win away (the A-League fixtures sometimes have us playing two or three away games in a row). We achieved that for the first time last season to make it six titles in our history.

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