When I was a teenager, I was into visiting soccer stadiums. At that time, I believed Korean soccer players were world class players. Now I see that Korean soccer players hope to play in the European league someday, because this league has many players who are talented. What’s more, is that Europeans love watching the sport more than Koreans do. This is why I believed that if a soccer lover from another country was to live in Korea, he or she may miss their hometown league instead of falling in love with the Korean one. However, my assumption turned out to be wrong. Steve Price, who is from England, launched a website called Kleaguefootball.com which conveys a wide range of information in English about the Korean soccer league. It is easy to find websites explaining K-Pop news in English, but a soccer themed website is pretty unique. This is the reason why I was determined to interview Steve Price. I hope you enjoy it.
Editor’s note: in this article, soccer and football are used interchangeably to refer to the same sport.
I initially came here on a one year contract to teach English. At that time I only planned to stay here for a year. After spending a year in Korea I returned to England, but I enjoyed my time in Korea so much that I decided to return. I met my wife and have been here ever since. I started the website with one of my friends who, like me, loves football. At that time, he was attempting to visit every football ground in the K-League. We ran a weekly podcast covering the league until the time when he went back to England (he is currently working for an English football club). After my friend left, I decided to keep the site going and try to expand on it a little too.
One and only in Korea
The atmosphere at the games is a lot more laid back than in other countries. If you watch a football game in England, then tickets are expensive, you can’t drink in the stands, a coffee at half time costs a fiver, etc. There’s none of that in Korea. This makes watching a game in Korea a more relaxed experience that you can enjoy with your friends.
24 hour society.
No matter what time of day or night it is, if you want to do something, there will be somewhere where you can do it. People even go clothes shopping or play football in the middle of the night!
When I have the time, I like to go on football trips. By that, I mean visiting a different city (other than Seoul, where I live) and watching a football match.
A few weekends ago, I visited Gangneung (강릉) on the East Coast. I spent the day on the beach, then had a few beers while watching a football match before going for a barbeque afterwards.
Like I said before, Korea is a 24 hour society, so when I arrived in Gangneung, at about 11 pm on a Friday night, the beach was still packed with people dancing and letting off fireworks.
England is completely football-mad. On any given Saturday, you will see cars driving up and down the motorway with football scarves hanging out the window as fans go to away matches. Unfortunately in Korea, the domestic league isn’t very popular among locals. There will be the occasional match where 50,000 or more people turn up, but on the whole, attendances often barely reach five figures. One of the main differences between the two countries is how you can arrange almost anything at the last minute in Korea, whereas in England, people will plan a coffee-date weeks in advance sometimes. In Korea you will always have something to do. It may feel hectic at times, but it’s certainly never boring.
My average weekend revolves around football. On Saturdays, I will play football with some other foreigners in the Seoul Saturday League. Our team, Deportivo Seoul, contains a wide mixture of nationalities while some of the other teams are aimed at a particular nationality (e.g. Malaysian) so that expats from those countries can meet up and play together. In the evenings, I often head to Itaewon (이태원) and watch some English Premier League football while having a few beers. Then on Sunday, I will head down to whichever stadium in the Seoul area is hosting a K-League game (there are two teams in Seoul, and one in each of its satellite cities, so there’s almost always a game on somewhere each Sunday) before coming home and watching the midday kick-off in the EPL.
If you come to Korea on a long trip, or have a week off and don’t know what to do with yourself, I recommend that you try to visit Ulleungdo (울릉도) in the East Sea. It is really tough to get to but going there feels like such an adventure. You have to first go to Pohang (포항) then catch a three or four hour ferry to the island, so it can’t really be visited on a weekend. I went there over five years ago but still my memories of the place are as vivid as ever; if you go there you won’t forget it.