▲ Soccer at Goelmae Ecological Park, Seogwipo City. Photo by Gareth Bannister
Early on Saturday morning, Nov. 26, in a cold room in Samyang, east of Jeju City, I woke up and began my journey to the soccer field at Goelmae Ecological Park in Seogwipo City. The start time for the soccer tournament was at 9:30 a.m. This meant having to take two buses with a total journey time of over one hour. Would it be worth it? With my own enthusiasm (and a quick coffee), I felt excited and ready for a whole day of football (as we call it in the UK).
Originally formed for the purposes of entering a tournament on the mainland, the team of “Jejuventus” had expanded their sights in October of this year and set to work planning events for people of all abilities. The tournament was the first of this kind, a six a-side tournament where the teams are chosen based on skill level (not “who you know”) which certainly was part of the appeal for me as it gives an added sense of interest. As it happened though, with the number of people that signed up (around 40), we switched to a seven a-side situation to fit in smoothly with the match planning. Thankfully, this move did not create any problems or add congestion, as there was still plenty of room to maneuver and put in that killer pass to your team mate.
The cost of the tournament per player was 10,000 won which was to be paid in advance via bank transfer to the tournament’s organiser and our very own Jeju Weekly contributor, Matt Harris. This money was to be used to rent the field, buy soccer nets as well as purchase supplies like a hefty amount of water, bananas as well as sandwiches which were much appreciated by all present! Sadly, the truth is that it is not always easy to locate and purchase things that you need in the time you need it and this proved to be the case here. The soccer nets didn’t arrive soon enough so the organisers had to cancel the order and buy some in person to ensure that the tournament could still go ahead.
▲ Photo by David Dobias
These soccer nets were significantly narrower than the normal six a-side offering but this only added to the challenge of the day, perhaps making tactics come further to the forefront. Maybe a team could attack more, leaving less in defence as the goalkeeper could be depended on to cover the smaller area? Or maybe a team could focus on defence, and when you consider the net size, a team with enough bodies behind the ball would surely be impenetrable? Either way, the truth was that even a team that was considered the minnows of the competition (which wasn’t really the case considering the well-balanced teams) would stand a chance of some kind of result.
Perhaps the highlight of the competition was one of my neighbours here in Samyang, Calvin Lewis, who was one of the goalkeepers, allowing a total of five goals to go past him in a single game, a feat which I thought impossible and which was unmatched throughout the day. Thankfully, he saw the funny side and that is what this competition was about — fun, exercise, and a shared enjoyment in a fantastic sport with people of all backgrounds and abilities.
Under the genius name of Jejuventus, the organizers have done fantastic things in such a short time and this first tournament can be considered a success. Despite the pain I was in the following couple of days, and the cramp which took me out of our final game, I can’t wait for the next event and I really do suggest that if you want to meet some friendly people, play some football or just run around, look busy and somehow get in the way of a shot at goal, then these are the sort of events for you. Join the group on Facebook and join the rest of us in anxiously awaiting the update informing us of the next competition.
▲ Photo by David Dobias
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