Six down, 38 to go, the K-League season may have a long way to go but the first month has been action-packed with shocks, hooliganism, full and empty stadiums and mascots getting attacked.
That happened at Incheon United. It was only the second ever game at the brand spanking new Sungui Arena. The first match was marred by a ticketing fiasco that saw thousands of fans stuck outside in the freezing cold for hours. That problem was fixed by the time Daejeon came to town but there was worse to come.
Most agree that Incheon mascot Durumi started the trouble in the battle of the two bottom teams. The crane, according to witnesses, was making fun of the away fans after Incheon claimed a much-needed 2-1 win. For two visitors, it was all too much and they sprinted onto the pitch and knocked the bird off his little power scooter and then proceeded to knock his block off. Shocked Daejeon players and security staff eventually pulled the assailants off.
That wasn’t the end of it though. A group of Incheon fans made their way to the Daejeon supporters and another fight ensued. The scenes were not pretty and there were reports that after the fighting stopped inside the stadium, it continued outside.
The K-League swiftly and strictly clamped down. Incheon were told to play a future game in a different region, as yet unannounced, while Daejeon have to play twice behind closed doors. Thankfully, Durumi is on the mend.
Two fan-free games is the least of Daejeon’s problems. No points, one goal and six defeats from six games has the pressure on rookie coach Yoo Sang-chul. Nicknamed ‘Yubi’ by his fellow 2002 World Cup squad members for his leadership skills after a famous Chinese general, he really has his work cut out as he gets to grip with his first full season. Already fans are voicing their frustration. With relegation introduced for the first time, these are nervous times.
While it is no big surprise to see Daejeon in the nether regions, Seongnam are not much better off. The seven-time Korean champions are also gunning for a third Asian title but at the moment, neither look likely. With just one win in six games, the team is struggling. Striker Dzenan Radoncic is banging them in for new team Suwon Bluewings, helped by Cho Dong-keun. Sasa Ognenovski is injured while new midfield signing Yoo Bitgaram has yet to fit in with his new team.
Coach Shin Tae-yong rang the changes after a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Busan I’Park and while the performance was better against Pohang Steelers, the result was the same. Well, it was actually worse as the 2010 Asian Champions lost 2-0 to the 2009 winners.
More headlines have been used on Jeonbuk Motors, a team that isn’t actually doing too badly but still have yet to suggest they are accustomed to losing long-term coach Choi Kang-hee. Choi went to the national team job, leaving assistant Lee Heung-sil in charge of the champions. Lee led the team to two disastrous showings in the Asian Champions League with successive 5-1 defeats – quite a shock for fans of the 2006 champions and 2011 runners-up. They bounced back with a 2-0 win at Gyeongnam, another team that is struggling more than expected.
There are familiar names at the top though Jeju United are not usual leaders. After finishing as runners-up in 2010, last season was a real let-down for fans on the island and with the departure of striker Kim Eun-jung to Gangwon in the summer, more of the same was feared. That hasn't been the case so far. New signing Seo Dong-hyun, who moved in the opposite direction to Kim. has already got three goals including a last-minute winner against old club Suwon Bluewings. Young striker Bae Il-hwan has also impressed.
There are three teams sharing 13 points with the leaders. FC Seoul have bounced back from their defeat at rivals Suwon Bluewings. 2011 top scorer Dejan Damjanovic scored twice on Sunday in 2-0 win over Sangju Sangju to dispel fears that he may be sulking after being denied a big money move to China. Suwon’s ‘twin towers’ in attack Dzenan Radoncic and Stevica Ristic are starting to click while Ulsan have slipped a little after a very bright start but are still very much in the mix.
Euro 2012 football