‘Who said no fun?’… Daejeon, a ‘soccer restaurant’ with romance + fun + grades
Daejeon is stripping away the notorious ‘Nojam City’ image with football.
Daejeon is called a typical nojam city. The lack of things to enjoy has earned it the tag of a ‘fun city’. Even local politicians have pledged to ‘escape from no jam’. If you search for Nojam City in the search box, Daejeon will pop up right away. It even appeared on the Nojam City rankings, with Daejeon ranked first and Ulsan ranked second.
K-League 1 Daejeon Hana 안전놀이터Citizen and Ulsan Hyundai faced off in the K-League on the 15th. Naturally, it was nicknamed ‘No Jam City Derby’. The entertainment in the two cities may not be fun, but the soccer that the two teams showed was more than fun, romantic and touching.
On the 15th, when the Daejeon-Ulsan match was held, the first thing I saw after getting off at Daejeon Station was Seongsimdang, a famous bakery in Daejeon. In the long waiting line in front of the Sungsimdang Daejeon Station branch, I found several familiar uniforms. Fans wearing blue Ulsan uniforms drew attention as they chose bread menus with excited expressions. The names of soccer players such as Lee Chung-yong and Kim Tae-hwan were written on the back. (This is also the reason why Daejeon fans say, ‘Have you come to buy bread?’)
I took Daejeon Subway Line 1 from Daejeon Station to World Cup Stadium Station. Daejeon’s turquoise + purple uniform and Ulsan’s blue uniform coexisted in the subway. Each Ulsan fan was carrying a shopping bag from Sungsimdang. It was a procession that had already left the Sacred Heart Hall and moved to the stadium. On that day, about 1,800 fans from Ulsan visited Daejeon using expedition buses, KTX, and their own cars.
Arriving at the stadium, I could feel the festive atmosphere properly. Food trucks, fan stores, and event booths in the southern plaza were constantly crowded with people. Daejeon uniforms and goods displayed in the fan store were sold out early. If you don’t come diligently, you can’t buy a uniform even if you want to buy it.
The number of spectators that day was 16,359. Daejeon’s home opening game this season, Gangwon FC (18,590), attracted the second largest number of spectators. The average spectator for Daejeon’s four home games, including the Ulsan game, is 14,850. For reference, the average spectator for the local professional baseball team Hanwha Eagles this season is 10,367. Daejeon surpassed the Hanwha Eagles. You can see why Daejeon Mayor Lee Jang-woo watched 3 out of 4 Daejeon home games.
The level of support was also high. Of course, when there was a cheering song, whether in Daejeon or Ulsan, when a great play was played, even the general-seat audience shook their butts and exclaimed naturally, “Oh~~”. The players of both teams played desperately throughout the 90 minutes as if to repay the reaction of the crowd. When the whistle blew announcing Daejeon’s 2-1 victory, the crowd exploded with fireworks. I could feel the heat of the A match held here last summer.
Jeong I-chan, a fan of Daejeon who we met at the stadium, said, “I knew how to use the strategy of holding out against Ulsan, the first place team. I was worried that even key defender Anton would be absent and I would lose a lot of points,” he said. “But from the beginning, I had fun with high pressure and scored the first goal. Daejeon soccer is not a boring game for the sake of results, but a passionate and romantic soccer. The atmosphere at home games has completely changed compared to several years ago.”
The first words of the away team’s Ulsan coach Hong Myung-bo at the press conference were, “It was really fun.” He suffered his first loss of the season while winning six games in a row, but his expression was bright. Why? Coach Hong said, “Daejeon has set a good precedent in the K-League. He showed that he had to face strong teams without playing defensive football. We have to play a game like this in the K-League.”
What followed was impressive. Coach Hong said, “Daejeon is a really tough place for the away team.” It has been 8 years since Ulsan visited Daejeon. Coach Hong is in his third year as Ulsan coach. Daejeon has been in the second division for 8 years, so Ulsan has never come to Daejeon. Even so, coach Hong shook his head, saying, “It’s a tough place for the away team.” Daejeon has now become a place where strong teams are afraid to come.
Daejeon coach Lee Min-seong said, “I knew the potential of Daejeon fans from the time I took over as the Daejeon Command Tower. Daejeon is a team that can gather a fandom comparable to Ulsan, Jeonbuk Hyundai, and FC Seoul,” he said, referring to the enthusiasm of the home fans. Lee Hyun-shik, who recorded one goal and one assist on the day, said, “Even though it is difficult during the game, when I hear the cheering, I gain strength and run more. I have no choice but to repay many fans with grades.”
The return of Daejeon players was also surprising. It was reminiscent of a popular team from a big club on their way home from work. The end of the game is at 6:30 pm, and the team heads to the team bus after an interview after taking a shower at around 7:30 pm. Daejeon fans sang songs in front of the team’s bus until late, waiting for the players.
The players came out of the stadium one by one and faithfully responded to the fans’ requests for autographs and photos. “Immigration! Lee Chang-geun! Jinhyun Lee! Sejong Joo!” The cries were heard endlessly. The Daejeon Club bus could not leave even after 8pm. Director Lee’s expression as he watched this scene from the front seat of the bus contained several meanings. Compared to the days of fighting in the mud in the second division, everything has changed. Big teams have to play in big water