Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Korea Republic v Oman – the Asian Cup arrives in Canberra

The Asian Cup is a big deal – the second oldest continental football tournament in the world after Copa America and in 2015 Australia is lucky enough to be the host country.

Not just that but the organisers have been kind to Canberra granting our beautiful city no less than 6 qualifiers and a quarter final. South Australia, whose Adelaide United regularly attracts crowds of over 20k is shunned as too is WA, the fact that there is a lot of big football games in the nations capital over the next three weeks should not be underestimated – it probably won’t be repeated in my lifetime. Of course as is the way with these things the glitzy Socceroos games go to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane with no chance of them gracing Canberra, but we’ve still got big-hitters South Korea playing two games here as well as China and Iraq.

First off let’s get the whole football/soccer conundrum thing out of the way. Of COURSE the game is called FOOTBALL. Having arrived in Australia from England six and a bit years ago  I’m also biased but despite Australia’s reticence, the beautiful game, dating back centuries, is football. I’m happy to cede to the Brazilian’s calling it futebol and the Germans of course are allowed Fußball, but “Soccer”, no I’m sorry that’s just horrible.

Over time I’ve softened my resistance – I used to insist on calling it football when talking to my Aussie mates, but sometimes (as almost every other sport apart from cricket seems to be called “footy” here) it just led to confusion, so it evolved into “football-soccer” and now I vary it according to the audience. Let’s face it though FOOTBALL is the world game and outside of Australia nobody gives a flying toss about State of Origin.

We got to the game 30 minutes before kick off. In the UK that would get you into the ground in time for kick off. True, your experience might differ depending on the ground you go to. If it’s some old pre-war affair you’d be channeled down some piss-smelling tunnel through a turnstyle into a grotty stadium, or if it was in one of the post-Taylor Report grounds in the Championship or Premier League then the experience would be bright and glitzy with an overpowering tannoy playing Queen and you’d pay $30 for a pie and a Bovril.

Either way I reckon you’d get in the ground though one way or another.

In Canberra though they’d got the stewarding wrong somehow. The parking around Canberra stadium is always at a premium, but we sat in a huge line of traffic before being sent in multiple directions before managing to park dubiously in a faraway carpark kinda/but not quite blocking someone in.

We wanted to see the anthems. In the end we missed the first 15 minutes. If you’re reading this and planning to go to any of the other games – here’s my only word of advice…get there EARLY.
Despite missing the first bit of the game it was still great. (I’d done a bit of swotting up prior to the game – Lee Chung-Yong – is known affectionately/imaginatively to his Bolton supporters as “Chungy” and Son Heung-min was a $10m transfer to Bayer Leverkusen where he plies his trade in the Bundersliga).

The Korean team were strong and organised and attacked with intent. The Oman team trying to score on the counter-attack, but still possessing players who had the occasional trick and piece of skill.
Towards the end of the first half a shot was parried by the Oman keeper and the ball fell to Cho Youngcheol who slid the ball home. The big Korean contingent in the crowd went wild and I jumped spontaneously out of my seat together with my boy Elijah.

Korea went into half time with a deserved 1-0 lead. The East stand was a swathe of red – South Korea are known as the Red Devils and they were able to generate a fair amount of noise both singing/chanting with the occasional air horn. It was a nice experience – I’ve been to Brumbies games with another 5,000 supporters in the same ground and found it akin to sitting in a library. It started to drizzle with rain at half time, but the wet weather did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd.

The second half was much like the first. The immaculate playing surface helping the Korean’s passing game and providing them with a couple of great chances to extend their lead. One hit the side netting another and another scuffed shot also closely missing the target. Oman were no pushovers though. They had a chance late on where the striker really should have made it 1-1 and then in the dying seconds an Oman build up resulted in a shot which pinged off the Korean crossbar.
In the end though the team in red deserved their 1-0 win. It did show off the quality of two of the sides who are also both in the Socceroos group – Australia meet Oman on Tuesday and then Korea next Saturday – they could be testing examinations for Ange Postecoglou’s team.

After the game I reflected on things – it was a great experience and (parking aside) Canberra Stadium put on a terrific event. It was great that Eli (aged 5) had his first experience of live football watching Korea Republic v Oman (I think mine was the slightly less exotic Wolverhampton Wanderers v Leeds United). Here’s some pics of our fabulous afternoon of football.

Eli's first taste of live football

12,500 watching Korea v Oman in Canberra stadium

Korea defending in the second half

This post was originally published on Visit Canberra's Blog

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