Sunday, April 11, 2010

Year 1 - Denmark vs Uruguay


What a weekend, take 2. The expanded version after some sleep. :)

Saturday night was FANTASTIC. There were some bumps in the road getting to the World Cup Game in Ulsan, but nothing that could detract from the experience.

Friday night I watched the France-Senegal game with friends outside White Market. It was a good time, and a good game. No one expected Senegal to upset France like that.

I got an early start to Ulsan Saturday. Well, early for a weekend, late considering what time I have to be up and about on weekdays. I left Chongju on the 10:00 A.M. bus. Overall the trip took about 4.5 hours, putting me in Ulsan at around 2:30. The trip was pretty good. Korean buses are a lot more comfortable than Canadian, and more efficient. We made one pit stop at a place called Chilgok, and to drop off passengers in Kyeoungju. Other than that it was straight through to Ulsan.

The countryside along the way was spectacular. I am still not used to the sight of so many mountains. We only passed through part of Kyeongju, but what a town. Everywhere you look is history. Kyeongju was the capital of the Silla kingdom for almost 1000 years, until 982 A.D. when the kingdom was conquered and the capital moved to the north. Its origins go back to around 57 B.C., around the time Julius Caesar was conquering Gaul. It survived a sacking by the Mongols in the 13th century, and Japanese in the 16th. Most of its artifacts survived the Japanese occupation of the early 20th century. Even considering what the Japanese stole, a wealth of historical treasures remain. I will definitely be going back there for a visit.

Ulsan has been a major harbour in Korea for over 1000 years. A legend from the Silla Kingdom said a man, believed to have been an Arab, arrived in Ulsan in 879 for trade and then settled to live among the people. Since the 60's the government has invested heavily in building up the infrastructure and industry base of Ulsan, turning it from a town into a modern city. Today Ulsan is one of the largest industrial cities in Korea. Most oil imports flow through the port. It has the biggest shipyard in the world, the area is also a home of many multinational petrochemical corporations as well as a center for the Korean shipbuilding industry. With a population of over 1,000,000 it is almost twice the size of Chongju.

The first thing I noticed when I got off the bus was the heat. It gets hot in Chongju, but I expected more of a breeze off the ocean here. There wasn't much of one. A wave of heat washed over me, and stayed with me the whole day. Patrick and his girlfriend were late getting to the bus station in Seoul and missed the bus. They didn't leave until noon, and their bus wasn't slated to arrive until after 5PM.

I went in search of a Yeogwan. After an hour of walking around in the heat I ended up back at the first Hotel I went to. Yeogwans are usually aorund 20-30,000 Won a night. For the World Cup they decided to jack their prices up to Hotel level. I couldn't find one that was below 50,000 Won a night. So I got us rooms at a hotel instead. The first thing I did upon entering my room was shower. I was a little ripe after walking around in the heat. ;)

Patrick and Chun Soon were SUPPOSED to have arrived at 3 PM. They missed the 10 AM bus, and the 11 AM. They never got out of Seoul until 12 Noon, and it takes around 5 hours to go from Seoul to Ulsan. So, I decided to head to the bus station before 5 and meet them. % PM rolls around, and no bus. 5:10, 5:20, FINALLY at 5:30 the bus rolled in. The game started at 6:00 and it was 30 minutes form the bus station to the stadium. Luckily, we found a cabbie that knew shortcuts and didn't know what a speedlimit was. ;)

We missed the opening kickoff but only by a couple of minutes. You could hear the roar of the crowd outside the stadium when the game started. The main thing slowing us down, other than the distance from the road to the entrance gate, was security. Security was tight, but fairly efficient.

Our seats were fabulous. We were in the lower bowl, near the entrance, to the left of the net! We started off behind Uruguay, and finished behind Denmark when they switched ends. The only thing better would be to have been down with the players. The teams were evenly matched, and both sides made some great plays. We were cheering for Denmark, which made it even sweeter when they won.

We did have to laugh at some of the calls, or rather non-calls, one ref-linesman made. It is kind of funny that no matter what the sport some moron always manages to get a job as a ref. This guy gave new meaning to incompetent. Several plays happened in front of him that should have resulted in some form of penalty. Once, a Uruguayan player hammered a Dane in the face several times with his elbow while trying to get the ball right in front of the ref. He got the ball, and took off with it. When the Dane stared at the ref and asked why he didn't call it the guy just made a face and motioned for him to go away. (We had a great view of this happening.) And this twit of a ref gets to go to the World Cup and officiate? Reminds me of Andy Van Hellemond in the NHL.

During the half time we wandered around, looking at over priced souvenirs. I called mom and said hi, and told her where we were sitting. Then I called one of my sisters to say hi. The 2nd half started just after I got through so I had to rush off. When I sat down I realized that we were no longer behind the Uruguayan net, they changed sides at half time. So I called home and let mom know we were behind the Danish net now. Just as I hung up Uruguay scored. We got to see 2 of the 3 goals scored up close. Great game!

The Koreans organized people to cheer for both sides. It was a nice sight, or rather sound. The roar of the crowd was awesome! Fans were well behaved in the stadium. A yank cut in front of me while I was waiting to get drinks. He ended up turning around just as I was about to tap him on the shoulder. He asked if he cut in front, apologized and bought me a beer. :)

After the game we took a walk around, trying to find our way out. We did see one fight start, but it ended pretty quickly. One guy in Uruguayan colours, and another in Danish started going at it. Interestingly enough both had English accents. They saw some Korean police heading their way carrying these big ass night sticks, about 5' long, and decided to stop, and bug out. :))

Leaving the stadium took some doing. However, things were well organized, with free buses to take people all over town. However, the line ups were HUGE. We ended up looking for a cab, which was not easy. We ended up on the street with some Brits and others who were looking for a cab. The Brits had to get to their hotel and to the airport or miss their flight. Patrick's girlfriend played interpreter for them, and talked to the police. The police went WAY above and beyond to help out. They got the airport police to come in a van, pick up the Brit's, take them to their hotel, and then to the airport. We also got a lift to the hotel with them.

From there we decided it was time to have supper, and some soju. We decided to go for something traditional, sum kyub sal Plus soju of course. Unfortunately, for some bizarre reason, we could not find ANY restaurant in the downtown area that served what is a very basic Korean food. It was astounding! Lots of fish places, night clubs, and western style places. After an hour we gave up and went back to the area around our hotel. I had seen some places while walking around that afternoon.

We ended up at a traditional Soju bar. Then we settled down for supper and to watch the Germany - Saudi Arabia rout. I can't bring myself to call that massacre a game. We had a good time watching the game and drinking with the people at the bar. By the time the game was over, the day had taken its toll, as had the soju and beer, and it was time to sleep.

Sunday was another hot day. I spent some time looking around, nothing much to see in that part of Ulsan. There is a HUGE ferris wheel on top of the Lotte Department store, but we never went on it. I hopped on the 1 PM bus and was home in time to go out and watch the England - Sweden game. It was a great weekend.

Take care,


This was my 1st ever live World Cup game. Hell my first live soccer game. It was great. I am glad I was here to see it.

I didn't have a TV or the World Cup coverage would have probably pissed me off with the focus pretty much being Korea and nothing else from the complaints I heard from friends.

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