Friday, 10 February 2012

K - League season awaits - A brand new citizen

Having moved to Daejeon, South Korea six months ago I have decided to do the honourable thing and support my local team. Even if that does mean its Daejeon Citizens.

Football, or Soccer is huge in Korea. Stand next to any young lad for more than 30 seconds and to go along with the usual cries of 'hello! How are you?' they'll soon start realing off the names of Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney, Drogba and of course Park Ji-Sung along with their favourite team in each league.

The 2002 world cup saw not only a hugely succesful and popular National side but has left a passion for football that seems to be growing. (Incidently that team are still adored and there have been calls for the KFA to beg Hiddink to return following the recent opening for a new national coach).

Though the encyclopedic knowledge of the EPL, Serie A and La liga doesnt extend to the national league, the K-League. Theres constant football highlights on TV but this doesnt include the K-League and there is no equivalant of Match of the day here.

Finding coverage about the league in English can be quite difficult. Over the coming season I'm going to try and plug a tiny tiny part of that gap.

This season I'm a Daejeon Citizen fan, part of the purple army.

The K-league kicks off on March 4th and is contested by 16 teams. However at the end of this season 4 teams will suffer relegation for the first time, reducing the league to 12 teams and trying to stimulate a more competitive league next year as well as improving the 2nd tier. (AMMENDMENT: Following on from the helpful comment form 'Mike' below I see they have changed the rules again! Now 2 teams will be relegated one of which has already been assigned to Sangju FC the military side leaving only one relegation spot)

It operates in a similar fashion to the Scottish premier leage, splitting in 2 towards the end of the season, with the champions being decided by a 6 team playoff system.

The current champions are Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, who have won 2 out of the last 3 championships. Their manager has just been appointed the new national coach but they have last seasons run away winner of the player of the season award in former Middlesbrough attacker Lee Dong Gook.

As you can see from their name, corporate sponsorship plays a huge part in funding the K-league sides and also applies to all othe profesional sports here. Unfortunatly Daejeon citizens are possibly the only side in the league without such backing and rely on the local council for funding along with player sales.

A lot of transfers that take place within the K-league happen in a similar way to the American style, with player swaps rather than large sums changing hands, and theres also a draft pick in place for players leaving University. For players coming from abroad fees are paid but most of the time these players have recently become free agents and then move to Korea.

Where as in the early days of the J-league and MLS many foreign big names moved there for one last pay day and some adulation, the foreign players plying their trade in the K-League are hardly household names. Most have bounced around the globe never staying with any club too long and now find themselves in South Korea.

There are however a few stand out players

Dejan Damjanovic
Last seasons top scorer with 23 goals was 30 year old Dejan Damjanovic of Seoul FC. The Montonegran was last seasons runner up player of year and has 66 goals in 111 games for Seoul FC.

Mauricio Molina
Damjanovics partner in attack is Columbian Mauricio Molina. He cost $1,200,000 when he first came to Korea to play for Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma before moving onto Seoul. Last season he scored 10 goals in 28 games.
(He's quite the bargain on football manager.)

As well as last seasons MVP reigning Champions Jeonbuk also boast 30 year old Brazilian, Eninho. He made the K-league team of the year last season and seems to have had more clubs than hot meals but 34 goals in 77 games in Korea suggests he may be feeling settled.

Derek Asamoah
Last seasons league runners up Pohang steelers have the well travelled Derek Asamoah upfront. He has 4 caps for Ghana and spent most of his career bouncing around the English lower divisions with spells in France with Nice, Scotland and Russia.

Eddy Bosnar

A controversial defender whos probably most famous for not being capped by Australia after falling out with several coaches and some badly timed decisions. He has just signed with Suwon Bluewings towards the end of a career that boasts spells at Everton (0 appearances however), over 50 games for Strum Graz, and spells in Holland, Croatia and 3 succesful years in Japan. He sees this as his last chance to earn that illusive Australia cap.

Dženan Radončić
The Suwon Bluewings squad also contains Montonergran born striker Dženan Radončić. The 6'3 target man has been in Korea since 2004 and has scored 44 goals in 150 K-League games. He speaks fluent Korean and this winter has applied to become a naturalised Korean. If succesful he will probably be the frst foreign born player to represent Korea, though he says being Korean is the motivation for applying, not the national team.

Daejeon citizens face up to a season competing against these clubs with very little in the way of money and no history of succes. The bigger goal for Daejeon may be surviving the first ever K-league relagation battle, having finished 15th out of 16 last season, the same would be a terrible blow for the club. They hold last seasons record for longest winless streak (5 draws and 9 losses) and usually find themselves playing in their huge world cup relic stadium with a capacity of 44,000, with an average of 12k fans a game.

Ive picked out 4 players who may well hold the key to the Citizens season.

Leonardo Ferreira
The 24 year old free transfer fits the bill of what seems to be the K-Leagues mandatory one Brazilian player per team rule. A short fast striker who will wear the number 11 shirt

Kevin Oris
Ferreiras partner up front will be another free transfer, in the shape of 6'3 1/2 inch Belgian target man Kevin Oris. The first Belgian to play in the K league spent most of his carear in the Belgian lower leagues with a few seasons in the top flight with smaller clubs, though he scroed 29 in 59 games over the last 2 years in his native second division with Antwerp. He'll don the number 9 shirt and look to provide goals as well as assists for Ferreira. Their partnership will be crucial.

Yuta Baba
Baba joined half way through the last season and the midfielder has made over 100 appearances in the J-league. A technical midfielder who will look to orchestrate games and provide the killer passes

Lee Hyun-Woong
Lee Hyun-Woong is known as the commander and made 29 appearances last year in what was his debut season after the draft. Already a popular player amongst fans he will likely play alongside Baba in the centre of midfield.

Kim Tae-Yeon
Finally this could be an important seasoon for Kim Tae-Yeon. The Metz academy graduate has spent time plying his trade in Japan and could develop well over the coming season.

It looks like a tough season may be waiting for us, but that hasn't done anything to alter my excitment. Hopefully I'll be able to bring some good news or at least some interesting information over the coming season regarding the Purple Army. Roll on March 4th. Come on you Citizens!


  1. I look forward to reading this blog. I have one thing I'd like to get clarified, as I had read different information elsewhere: I heard that the league changed the number of teams being relegated from 4 down to 2. There's a Daejeon Citizen supporters group on facebook that I got this information from.