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Fans Abroad: "Daegu FC is life for me", Lucas Zocco

Living far away from what you love in times of physical distance may make your heart grow fonder, but it can be heartbreaking and frustrating. What if you were also in a different time zone in the opposite of the globe though? With K League drawing more and more international attention recently, there are set to be more fans of Korean football from all over the world. This interview looks at how it feels like living abroad as a K League fan and the experiences that come with it. In the first instalment of this series, K League United's Daegu FC correspondent Muyeol Jung spoke to one of Daegu's international fans, Lucas Zocco about his time following the club.

Becoming a Daegu FC fan

Muyeol Jung (MJ): Hello, Lucas. First of all, would you introduce yourself and tell us how you ended up being a Daegu FC fan?

Lucas Zocco (LZ): Hello, I'm Lucas Zocco. I was born in Argentina, but I live in Mexico. I studied in England and South Korea.

I can't remember when exactly I was first exposed to Daegu FC, but back in 2010 at university in England, I loved them so much. They were the only team I would play FIFA with (to the annoyance of my friends). I always said that I fell in love with the team due to their hardworking nature, it was always 11 guys on the pitch that gave their all. Their glorious colours, badge, stadium and lovely city just sealed the deal. One of my biggest reasons to go study in South Korea was to be able to see Daegu FC play live.

MJ: Well, that sounds quite random, but that's how your romance with Daegu started to bud. Then, when did your dream to live in South Korea come true?

LZ: Well, in July 2012, I finally came to Korea as an exchange student to Korea University and settled in Anam, a few blocks away from campus and the Cheonggyecheon stream. I would often go there at night to clear my head or for a run.

I really loved my time at university. I lived there until June 2013, and that was my home where I made many fond memories of it. I would go to Korea University's football pitch to train every single day after classes and ended up playing for Anam FC, even becoming Champions in the Seoul Sunday League 2nd Division and gaining promotion.

MJ: It seems football really helped you settle quickly in a new life in Korea. Coming back to Daegu FC, when was the first time you watched the Sky Blues play live and what do you remember from that time?

LZ: It was summer 2012 at Seoul World Cup stadium. Sadly we came away with a 2-0 loss, but nothing will make me forget the feeling of finally seeing the team out at the ground on that night.

During that match against FC Seoul, we could've scored a lot, but bad finishing meant that we came away empty-handed. Nevertheless, the drive of the team to keep going and running the full 90 minutes impressed me and that was a memory that just cemented what I liked about the team, just 11 honest players doing their best.

It was the time when Brazilian coach Moacir Pereira was the boss, Matheus and Leandrinho ran the attack, and Daegu played really attacking football (if a bit flimsy at the back). That season was the best season we had until we came back to K League 1 in 2017.

[The 2012 season was the last year where 16 K League clubs participated in before K League 2 was officially launched in 2013. The game Lucas attended was the final game of the normal 30 rounds before the split round and Daegu could have made the top eight place if they had beaten Seoul.]

Lucas visited Daegu Stadium and witnessed Daegu's unforgettable 2012 season. (Image courtesy of himself)

Watching from Afar

MJ: After enjoying your time in Korea, watching Daegu FC week in and week out with ease, it must have been devastating to continue to follow Daegu FC once you left Korea. What's was like supporting little, less well-known football team far away from where you live?

LZ: Well, that was definitely a big challenge! I looked at how I would be able to get information on the club, so I found Twitter accounts related to the K League, followed the club on all social media platforms I could think of and watched the highlights of games (SPOTV on Youtube is a lifesaver) when I couldn't watch the full matches (VPN + NaverTV) due to timezone differences.

I got teased a lot about supporting a club that nobody had ever heard of pretty much, but little by little I taught them about the club so at least people now know about Daegu by showing them match highlights and all. People still might not understand it too much as to why I support a club from far away, but at least they respect it.

MJ: Since you left, it has been like a riding a roller coaster with so much ups and downs for Daegu FC; the relegation in 2013, bitter experiences until the promotion in 2016 and becoming the 2018 Korea FA Cup Champions. How did it feel watching all these things happen?

LZ: Well, the relegation was terrible. There's no other way to go about it. It's such a dreadful feeling. I had hoped that we'd bounce back at the first attempt but we had a disappointing campaign [2014]. The next season we looked like we'd finish as champions, but during that last match, we had a goal disallowed late into the match and seemed like that crushed our player's spirits. If that goal was given, we'd have won the championship and gone back to the K League 1. It was not to be and we lost in the first playoff match. Third time [2016] was the charm though! We got to be promoted and we haven't looked back since. The next season was pretty good as we didn't look like getting relegated and we kept getting better and better with each passing seasons.

Winning the FA Cup was really unexpected, I thought getting to the final was already an amazing accomplishment, but winning it in such a manner was absolutely incredible. I must've been celebrating it all week!

MJ: What was your reaction to Daegu's winning the FA Cup? How did you celebrate the FA Cup Champions? Would you ever think this would happen?

LZ: I watched both of the FA Cup final games (they were at like 4 am and 1 am during the week), and when Daegu won, I just couldn't go back to sleep. I was over the moon that I stayed up celebrating on my own for hours! Next day morning, I had a really special breakfast to celebrate and went to work in my Daegu FC shirt. To be frank, I didn't expect us to win any silverware, but I will never forget that rush of happiness and pride that we got from winning the FA Cup. I thought we were real minnows, but the way the team played against Ulsan Hyundai was nothing short of incredible and we deserved that cup through and through. I'm really chuffed about the cup and can't wait to see how we keep on building from there. Go Daegu!

Return to Daegu

MJ: Okay, let's talk about your trip to Daegu. Last year in April, you visited Daegu and attended two games [Pohang and Sanfrecce Hiroshima] in the new Daegu Football Stadium. How was your matchday experience during the stay?

LZ: It was absolutely amazing! A dream come true! The weather was excellent, the city was beautiful and the stadium is just perfect. It's not very big, but that just makes it all cosier and more beautiful. Everybody singing and stomping at the same time was such a perfect experience, I can't wait to go back! Also, the fried chicken you get at the stadium was top notch! It was too bad we didn't get the result we wanted against Sanfrecce Hiroshima in ACL, but I still loved every minute of it.

Lucas and his girlfriend at DGB Daegu Bank Park (Image courtesy of himself)

MJ: Back then, did you expect that Daegu FC would finish 5th in K League? What would you choose as the most memorable game in 2019 season?

LZ: I didn't! I hoped that we might end up in the top half, but I didn't know if we could carry that fine form over from the second half of 2018 into 2019 while also playing in the ACL. It was great to get a 5th place!

Well, my most memorable game was the 3-0 win over Pohang because that was the first time that I was in the new stadium and the goals were amazing! The second most memorable one was the 3-1 win over Guangzhou Evergrande in the ACL, nobody gave us a chance as the Chinese side had really famous players, but they came to Daegu and were shown what a great team we have.

MJ: Coming back to 2012 season quickly, I saw you have a 10th Anniversary Daegu Shirt. It was very competitive to buy the shirt and not many Daegu fans have it. How did you get it?

LZ: I was very lucky regarding the 10th Anniversary shirt. I found out about it pretty quickly and tried to order one for myself. However, I couldn't because I didn't have a citizenship number which was required to make an account and get it delivered. I asked my best friend in Korea, Joyce, to get it for me and she was super nice, ordering it and giving it to me once it arrived. I was so happy that I could get it and cherished it for all this time.

Funnily enough, the reason I came to Korea in April last year was to attend that same friend's wedding and since I was coming to the wedding, I was dead set on going to Daegu to watch the team again, enjoy the new stadium and partake in the ACL experience which a very friendly reporter managed to set up.

Lucas proudly poses with signed 10th Anniversary shirt in his visit to Daegu's training ground (Image courtesy of himself)

While I was in Daegu, we managed to go to one of the team's training sessions and at the end of it, most of the team ended up signing it. Jeong Tae-Wook was really surprised that a random foreigner was asking for his autograph, but he was really cool about it, and Cesinha and Andre were very surprised to hear some Portuguese. The whole team was awesome and down to earth.

Awaiting 2020

MJ: After more than two months of delay on 2020 K League due to the global pandemic, K League will finally return in May. What are you looking forward to most this season?

LZ: Well, watching Cesinha, Kim Dae-Won and Jeong Tae-Wook always excites me! But I think that the new partnership between Dejan and Cesinha is something I am really looking foward to seeing. It is also great to have Tsubasa fit again for this season. I hope we can break into the top half again, dreaming with top four!

MJ: The final question. What do Daegu FC and K League mean to you?

LZ: Well, Daegu FC is life for me. I follow them afar, watch the games when I can, follow the news, get the merchandise when I can and just support the team in any way I can figure. I also try to spread awareness of the club wherever I go. And during my recent trip to Daegu, I got the 10th year anniversary jersey signed by the players from last season and it's my most prized possession!

Despite himself being far away, Lucas is just as passionate as other Daegu fans in Korea (Image courtesy of himself)

As for K League, I like the league. It's a lot better than most people think it would be and compared to football here in Mexico, the games are much quicker and more intense. I would be happy to see that more people will go to watch K League games.

I would like to send a massive thanks to Lucas for his loyal support and agreeing to this interview. It is also a pleasure for me to hear and spread the voice of a passionate Daegu fan abroad.

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