Get an insight into the Reds’ journey to Pohang for Match Day 3 of their AFC Champions League 2012 campaign.
Pohang ACL Campaign
The challenges of confronting powerhouse clubs in Asia are extremely difficult in logistical terms, let alone trying to win the on-field battle. Take Adelaide United-s game in Pohang last week and consider the itinerary.
Travel to Pohang
The travelling party left Adelaide at midday on Saturday via Melbourne with a delay, plane to Hong Kong with a lengthy delay, on to Seoul International Airport, transfer to Seoul Domestic for a flight to Pohang which arrived at 2pm local time – over 24 hours travelling. The delay periods in airports do little to prepare athletes for the challenge ahead. A brief rest period at the hotel in Pohang was followed by a light training session some 30 minutes away in temperatures hovering around three degrees Celsius.
Pohang the City
An industrial city with a population of approximately 650,000, while there are specks of scenic forestry scattered around the place, it is highly unlikely to figure in your top 20 tourist destinations. Smog abounds with the sun facing the insurmountable task of breaking through. In fact the few glimpses of the sun are akin to a bushfire day in Adelaide when the sun struggles to burst through the resulting smoke in an eerie fashion.
The city has a main shopping strip which opens late, has its peak activity around 6pm and closes late. And did we mention the cold, having left Adelaide and its 25 degree plus temperatures, the squad was now experiencing single digit figures not dissimilar to what it was like in Tashkent. But then again, it is just coming out of winter in the northern hemisphere.
Pohang has high-rise apartments and plenty of them and individual houses are rare, according to our liaison officer the city goes up or down. Typically, two bedroom apartments are sold by the corporations that build them. Pohang has a beach, which is not used due to its location being adjacent to a major steelworks, even in summer when the heat and humidity rises. What about recreation – what do the locals of Pohang get up to? From only being there a short time we did not get too much of an indication, but golf is something that we did come across. Costs about $70 to go to a driving range for an unlimited number of balls for the day, otherwise it is about $350/$400 for a round if you can access a course. It was reported that it was often cheaper to fly to a venue to play rather than play locally.
After catching up on much needed sleep and rest, players spent the day relaxing prior to a final session at the Steelyard at 6pm. All players were rugged up for the session in really cold temperatures and a fierce wind blowing across the stadium. Then it was back to the hotel around 8.30pm for dinner and rest. Just as well players have all the modern technology for entertainment. Breakfast the next day was followed by a team walk, lunch, late afternoon pre match meeting and then off to the Steelyard at 6pm for the 8pm kick off.
This is an intimidating venue. Built originally for staff recreation in 1991 by Posco Iron and Steel works, it is now the home of the Pohang Steelers. An 18,000 seat stadium, home crowds average around eight to ten thousand and in every seat you feel relatively close to the action (think Hindmarsh Stadium if the corners of the stands were enclosed). Interestingly, there is one single ticket price, around $10 Australian, but no reserve seating. Posco, who own the Steelers, have 10,000 employees and provide unlimited support.
The Pohang Steelers have 36 rostered players comprising of the maximum four internationals – well remunerated ones at that with rumoured salaries exceeding $1m. They play 44 games in a season and have a proud history since inception, winning three AFC championships and a third place at the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup – this is a very serious football club whichever way you look at it. In addition to their numerous staff they access state of the art training and social facilities away from the Steelyard which is only used for match days.
Conceding a goal in the 68th minute eliminated our chance of victory and a valuable point. Central Coast Mariners Coach Graham Arnold summed up the David v Goliath battle Australian clubs face in this competition when he said after the Mariners- match against J-League club Nagoya Grampus, “It mattered to me because…people talk about the A-League but we-re playing against a 50 million dollar team and want to prove something.”
The trip back
We came, we competed, we conceded, but the same 24 hour plus trip confronted the group the following day. Eventually the clear blue sky of Adelaide was a welcome sight and we look ahead to hosting Pohang down under on our patch at Hindmarsh on April 18.
Click here to check out images of the Reds’ time in Pohang.