Tuesday, October 15, 2013

South Korea vs Brazil Friendly - Neymar didn't disappoint

Last Saturday I got the chance to go see South Korea and Brazil play an international friendly match at Seoul's World Cup Stadium.  Although baseball has gained a lot of attention in the last 10 years in Korea, soccer still is the king of sports here.  The national team supporters are affectionately referred to as the 'Red Devils'.  So my girlfriend and I put on our red shirts and made our way to the stadium.  We joined a record-setting crowd of 65,308 in hopes that Korea could put on a good show against one of the best national teams in the world.  

The scene just before kickoff

Record crowd for Seoul's World Cup Stadium

The first half of the game was very closely played.  The Korean team played aggressive, deciding to go with the strategy of playing very physically.  Late in the first half, with the score still 0-0, things started to get a little chippy between the Korean team and Brazil, specifically Neymar.  It seemed that they were targeting him specifically, trying to use their physical play to take him out of his element.  It didn't work...

Neymar put the Brazilian team up 1-0 going into the half.  Shortly after the start of the second half, Brazil used a quick counter-attack to get past the Korean defense.  Oscar was able to get the Korean goalie to bite on a fake and then chip the ball over him to give us our final score, 2-0.  

I was really hoping to see Korea score even just one goal, simply to see the reaction of the crowd.  They were very enthusiastic the entire game and aside from one successful attempt at 'the wave' they stayed focused on the action for the full 90.  Korea did have a handful of scoring opportunities, with this one probably being the best...

Overall it was a great night.  We met Brandon and his girlfriend for dinner near Hapjeong before we all went to the match.  I've been lucky to be able to go to some great events recently and I'm looking forward to continuing that trend here in the next few weeks.  Now I just need to add a playoff baseball game to the list.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hanging out with 1.2 million people at the Seoul International Fireworks Festival

Last weekend I went to the biggest event I have ever been to.  And it is the biggest event I likely ever will go to.  Can you imagine a time in your life when you might be at a park with anywhere close to that many people?  Just to put it in perspective, JerryWorld, aka Cowboys Stadium, made huge headlines when it hosted its first regular season NFL game with a record-breaking crowd of 105,121 people.  So we'd need Jerry to build 11 more stadiums to host the number of people who were at the park on Saturday.

The gorgeous Seoul sunset

A view of the mountains behind the city

I went Jennifer, her sister and her sister's fiance and luckily we decided to get there about 4 hours before the show started.  Getting there 4 hours early got us a place to lay out our blankets and set up shop.  After that it was standing room only.  I literally couldn't see the end of the crowd.  It stretched about a mile down the Han River.  Oh, and there were people on the other side of the river watching also.  Did I mention there were 1.2 million people there??  

Getting there was insane.  We took the subway and every transfer getting there was more difficult than the one before.  I've never been crammed into a subway car like I was that day.  So many people had their cameras out taking pictures and video of the crowds in the subway.  And if the people of Seoul think it's a big crowd, then you can trust that it is.  And remember, we left for the park more than 5 hours before the show started.

A small sample of the crowd hours before the fireworks started

Some of the action.  Pretend the tree is there for 'artistic' purposes

The fireworks were amazing.  And lasted almost an hour and a half!  Yet the entire time I just kept thinking, 'How are we getting out of here?'  The subway station closest to the park was closed off.  The police were diverting the crowd in three different directions, to three different subway stations.  So as the crowd divided into thirds, each walking about a half mile or more to the closest station, it looked like a mass exodus from a movie scene. We got extremely lucky because just as we were about to queue up at the subway station and be packed into the train, we saw the bus that goes right back to our neighborhood and not only were able to get on but also get seats.  

All in all, it was a great experience.  Was it a little bit of trouble?  Yes.  Was it as much trouble as you'd expect with that many people all in one place?  Not at all.  The city did a great job making it enjoyable and as easy as it could have been.  Thinking about going next year?  My advice is to show up hours early, pack a picnic and get comfortable.  Enjoy the day and the fact that you're participating in a historic event.  And then try to get lucky and get a seat on the bus for your trek home.