Thank you South Korea – a love letter from football and the world

At a time when the world needs understanding, kindness and compassion, it seems there is more squabling and divisivness than ever before or at least it does if you are living in Britain or paying attention to the U.S. for example.

And yet, a shining beacon of hope comes to us from the Far East, South Korea to be more precise in the form of the K League.

The K League – thanks to the selfless nature and actions of the people of South Korea – is now playing professional football once again.

I’m obviously aware that at a time when great strides are being made to unify Korea and its people, that speaking uniquely about South Korea may be seen as some as somewhat polarising, but to my knowledge there are no North Korean teams in the K League… yet. (We live in hope)

So with that said due to a combination of overwhelming gratitude and passion for the game, I set about finding myself a K League side.

There are some simple criteria that have served me well when finding a foreign football team and through years of practice I have developed somewhat of a formula.

Stadium, Kits, Fans, City.

Choosing a stadium usually narrows it down hugely. If you have a running track, I’m not interested. In my opinion a football stadium should be made for football first and foremost.

Now I understand that due to financial constraints or location or many other factors that is not always feasible but I have to stay true to myself here. It’s no offence to those who can’t have a football specific stadium, merely a personal preference.

So how many teams in the K League have a stadium I in my infinite wisdom deem suitable? Seven. Out of the possible twelve, I’ve already nearly halfed my choices.

Which teams do they belong to? Daegu FC, Pohang Steelers, Incheon United, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Suwon Samsung Blue Wings, Ulsan Hyundai and the team of the capital FC Seoul.

My personal favourites are the stadiums of Ulsan Hyundai and Incheon United. In terms of which “wins” it depends which you prefer.

Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium

Despite the breath taking scenery of Ulsan (I can think of few places I’ve seen more beautiful) this is about football and that Incheon Stadium is a work of art that any team would be proud to call home.

The kits? Again it’s all about personal preference but for me there are four that stand out above the rest: Daegu FC, Pohang Steelers, Ulsan Hyundai and Suwon Samsung Blue Wings.

To be honest, I counted the Blue Wings out because they are a bit too “Chelsea” for me (though the away kit has a French flavour and is extremely nice) but I wanted something more uniquely Korean.

Again Pohang kits are nice but have a “rugby” feel about them as well as the colours reminding me a lot of Flamengo, not that all kits won’t remind you of something in some way but these two are obvious in that manner.

So down to two for the prize of best kit.

Daegu FC kits – less is more

I’m tempted to give this one to Daegu just for “Korean Spock” who is clearly the leader of this no nonsense K-pop meets gangster rap group. We know he is the leader because he’s wearing a polar neck. I can’t be swayed by this though…

Hummel have absolutely smashed it out of the park with this. Yes it is sponsor heavy but you know what, in this case it just seems to work. Sorry Korean spock, but it was only logical that these clean cut kits got the “W”.

So if you’re keeping count that’s Incheon winning the battle of the stadiums and Ulsan just missing out and Ulsan going one better in the battle of the kits with Daegu just missing out.

Fans. I won’t judge the fans in the K League for one simple reason, Respect. I like to show respect in all cases where I can but I am inclined to do so even more as we owe a debt of gratitude for all of them bringing football back into our world.

One team did stand out to me in terms of what I was looking for. I won’t reveal them as they ended up being the team I picked.

Again in terms of Cities, I can’t really go into too much depth. I’d have no problem visiting any or all of them and I’m sure they all offer something unique but it’s time to reveal our winner.

Ulsan Hyundai have it all, a team competing for titles, a specifically built World Cup stadium, as beautiful a backdrop to a game of football as you could ever wish to find and a kit that could go head to head with any I’ve seen in the world

So it stands to reason that I picked Daegu FC. Wait, what? Yep Daegu are the team I will be following in Korea.

For everything that Ulsan has and boy is it a lot, as I watched videos of the city of Daegu, I fell in love with the place. It just seemed different to everywhere else I saw.

Being from Liverpool living next to a river is a big draw, also music and Kim Kwang-Seok – the most beloved folk singer of Korea – was born in Daegu.

Kim Kwang-Seok

As an added bonus were I ever to go to Daegu, they also have a Baseball team, which also obviously is now my Korean baseball team, the Samsung Lions. The most succesful team in KBO (although they lost 12-4 at time of writing to the KIA Tigers) they are sometimes referred to as the “New York Yankees of Korea”, this isn’t something I like but we’re Daegu now, so we move…

The Daegu Samsung Lions

In terms of the City itself, it looks effortlessly beautiful and authentic and it just oozes culture even in the snippets I have seen.

Daegu NEED fans as well. They are not one of the bigger sides in Korea, they are perennial underdogs despite overcoming the odds in 2018 to win the Korean FA Cup (yes that is what it is referred to as, I’m not just being lazy) they only came back into the top division in 2017 having spent three seasons in the lower league.

Economically, Daegu was the commercial centre of the Korean peninsula but sadly as the textile industry declined, so did Daegu’s economy which as it stagnated also led to a decline in population.

The heart of the Covid-19 outbreak in South Korea? You guessed it, Daegu. These guys can’t catch a break!

Fans of Daegu FC

The fans though from what I’ve seen seem as passionate as any in Korea and if they will have me, I will be proud to visit their city, experience and learn from their culture and of course stand next to them one day and sing:

“We are Daegu FC”.

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