INCHEON UNITED MATCHDAY EXPERIENCE!!! K-LEAGUE RELEGATION BATTLE!!!
Updated: Sep 9, 2019
I’ve been across the world experiencing multiple atmospheres in world football. This being the second fixture I went to in the span of seven days and the third ground in the same time frame. Going to Incheon Football Stadium in Dowon was going to ultimately be a complete new experience in Korea. As I’ve only been to domestic league and international friendlies at Seoul World Cup Stadium. Incheon is mostly known for having the world recognized and main Airport for capital Seoul. Being a port city of Seoul and now being in the top three cities in size and population in the country, it’s pretty interesting to see how close the stadium was from downtown Seoul. Seoul has a good number of teams in it’s metropolitan region and one of them being Incheon United. As most games I’ve gone to in my time in Korea reaching these fixtures have predominantly been reached by subway or train and this game was no different. It took around an hour to get to the stadium while making it to the stadiums station Dowon it was clear that this station was dedicated to the club. Just like FC Seoul’s main station it is covered with banners and signs indicating this is the home for the club.
Making it out the subway station all of a sudden I began to see Incheon United jerseys amongst travellers and the noise grew dramatically walking out. Hearing good things about this stadium online that being a smaller venue hosting a capacity of 20,000 it is clear that this was going to be different than Seoul’s World Cup Stadium. The ticket line was longer than expected but surprisingly didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Managing to get through the lines fairly quickly I couldn’t help but notice the atmosphere outside the stadium was different as predicted, from Turkish food vendors to Korean cuisine there was a certain difference it had. One side of the ground had an open concept behind the away supporters section where you can see directly into the stadium. With this concept I believe noise and sound gets directly pushed out through that side of the ground. Walking towards the gates the sound is clear and in your face. I’ve mentioned before with some stadiums in this nation they don’t have a specific feel of home for the teams that associate themselves with the stadium. This distinguished itself away from that belief as this was definitely Incheon United's home ground with direct demonstration that it was.
Getting inside the stadium the organization of the gates was in my opinion one of the better I’ve been to in any sport event I’ve been to in Korea. At this point I was inside the stadium and honestly despite most K League 1 (Top flight of Korean Football) games I couldn’t help but notice they were a lot more enthusiastic about their team than Seoul. Incheon United was hosting Jeju United the sole club from the island of Jeju, both clubs are currently battling relegation being the bottom two teams in the league at the time of the game. Jeju didn’t have much of a strong supporters section just being a scattered group of individuals with flags, signs and kits being worn. On the other hand Incheon United were honestly something special from the get go as an immediate noticeable force when entering the stadium. The ultras were singing their hearts out completely in sync with one and other. Not only singing from the second I got there to the moment I left. Multiple moments fans would jump back in unison and manage in groups to be jumping up and down as usual ultras and supporters do. Not being sold out they were the livelihood of this stadium just like FC Seoul’s ultras were but for some odd reason it felt they had a point to prove. Whether it’s because their club is performing out of form and poorly or if it’s because that’s just tradition it was truly something else.
Other moments to note all foreign players from Incheon had a fan in the section waving their home countries flag proudly as if they were Korean showing a great deal of respect to their players who chose this club to play for. There was another circumstance when I was in line for a drink at the concession a young fan was singing I joined him quickly in the chant and his excitement in his eyes were clear as I signaled to high five him and he immediately almost welcomed me in.
Again I’ve been to a lot of grounds in my time but this one was something else from being a lot smaller than World Cup Stadium it was in my opinion even louder with the quality on the pitch not necessarily the highest as I’ve mentioned again the fans were the highlight of the match this is a team battling to stay in the top tier of their football system but the fans aren’t giving up on them and I think any team or supporters around the world can take pointers from these ultras as they managed to be there for their team when it seems they needed them the most. The fixture ended in a nil-nil draw without a goal it was still somehow one of my favourite experiences in sports I’ve been to. Even with a long way back to Seoul I was beyond satisfied with my experience and I suggest anyone in the Seoul region whose a true football fan should make their way out to this ground and experience a unique footballing experience.