THE FRIENDLY EL CLASICO !
What better way to finish off this leg of the journey than meeting up with a fellow Rossendalian in these far off shores? Mark Trickett, Professor of English at Yogin University no less ! Mark has been living in South Korea now for over 10 years and was a massive support in getting the game on today.
Mark had arranged to meet me, with his amazing young son Joshua, for the Suwan v Incheon K-League match, at the Suwon Stadium. The stadium itself was pretty impressive but the match was not a thriller. With the game locked at 0-0, we left just after half-time to pursue our own game.
Walking away from the stadium, Mark spotted some young dudes kicking around in the grounds of the Songjuk Elementary School. We went over for a chat, plonked the jumpers down and very quickly had a 5 v 5 going. The players included Kim Jong Seo, Lee Min Gyu, Kim Sang Gyu, Lee Do Sung, Kim Chan Woo, Lee Hyun Joon, Park Sang Jun and Go Jung Hun. There were first grade middle school students, making them all around 13 years of age.
What a set of characters! The lads were all football crazy, running upto Mark and I throughout the game shouting out their favourite players names, from Bergkamp to Ribery, Pele to Ji-Sung Park. They all loved watching Spanish football and so named their respective teams Barcelona and Real Madrid for the day. Barcelona quickly shot into a 5-1 lead. The game was so one-sided I called the lads in and asked them if they wanted to mix the teams up and play another game. The Madridistas refused, the teams swapped halves for the second half and off they went.
In a classic game of two halves, Real Madrid came roaring back into the game and took the lead, 6-5! The Barcelona players were remarkable in their praise of this come back; complimenting opposition players for their "Beautiful goal", "So fast speed", "Great skill like Messi and Ronaldo!". I couldn't believe my ears ! There was not a hint of malice or frustration that Madrid's lead had been wiped out, just pure joy all around at playing the game and an appreciation of the skills on show. It wasn't that both team's didn't want to win (there was enough fight and determination on show), it was just that they wanted to enjoy themselves more! Brilliant!
Madrid ran out 10-6 winners in the end but it was smiles all round. A truly friendly El Clasico. Thank you for a really enjoyable game boys! You really did encapsulate the true spit of the game today. Great thanks again to Mark for his friendship and support throughout my visit to Seoul. Superb!