Ji Dong-won

A Black Cat from China

Ex-pat fan Paul Robinson blogs about his experiences on the pre-season trail in Korea.

I arrived late on Wednesday after spending two hours stuck on the Tarmac at Shenzhen airport. It was a case of getting the bus to my hotel in Suwon, which was surprisingly painless and followed by the quickest hotel check-in I have ever experienced.

I had a fair idea what to expect as was in Korea during the 2002 World Cup and teach a number of Korean students in China who to put it simply love their football.

The weather was not good during the day, so went to the gym in hotel, and then popped the red and white shirt on to go for lunch. Was stopped on the street for photographs on a couple of occasions and when they recognise the shirt, they shout 'Ji!'.

Then it was time to leave the hotel for the game, was picked up by Jin Mook who was a student of mine in China, and was introduced to his family. Got to the ground and saw a fair a amount of traffic, which made me think there could be a decent crowd.

While walking to the ground it was refreshing to see a number of red and white shirts, which demonstrates the great commitment of SAFC fans. Got to our seat and realised there was a healthy crowd in the stadium with most of our contingent behind the goal.

There was a brief opening ceremony which was well done which suggests this is a big tournament for Suwon, with fireworks to finish off. Then the teams were announced and I see Everton is playing for Seongnam, which surely spelled trouble given our recent record against them!

The game kicked off and as expected Seongnam began quickly but the Lads started to claw their way back into the game with Richardson hitting the post. Then Seongnam went forward and scored - and of course it was that man Everton Santos!

The second half was littered with Sunderland giving the ball away, but the keeper made a great save from Wickham and Gardner smashed a free kick against the bar. Seongnam also hit the post and Mig had to make a fine stop to keep the score at 1-0.

After the game, I explained to Jin Mook it was our first game since May and that hopefully we will be better on Sunday. I gave Jin Mook my SAFC scarf as his mother said that the tickets were a present to me, and they have invited me for dinner too - Koreans hold teachers in very high regard.