Sports clubs: Sweat knows no nationalityIt is Sunday morning on the Han River in Jamwon-dong. The butterfly nets appear, one by one. Inline skaters and bicyclists passing by slow down to gaze.
Several men with helmets and protective gear are moving around a small goal. They are members of the lacrosse club CLU. At first, they just pass the little ball around, but soon they begin to hit each other’s bodies and sticks, producing lots of noise. It’s very dynamic. Now, it’s break time. With their helmets off, one can see there are a couple of Koreans, white men and black men. And it turns out that those aren’t really butterfly nets.
CLU’s members are guys who have studied abroad at one time and cannot forget how much fun lacrosse is. Among the 10 lacrosse enthusiasts who gather every weekend, seven or so are American or British expatriates. The spoken language is, of course, English.
Lacrosse can be described as a mixture of hockey and soccer, baseball and soccer or basketball and hockey. You score a goal by passing a little rubber ball with a long-handled stick, which has a net at one end. Today, it is popular in the U.S., Canada and Australia.
Are you afraid to participate because of how rough it looks? Why not listen to what British member Casper Jones, 27, said: “Even a beginner can have fun within one or two months. Aren’t sports all about learning something from others?”
Nor is lacrosse the only outdoor sport that’s brought expats and Koreans together into clubs. Check the table accompanying this story, and read on.
Draw a white line in a blue sky
A sport doesn’t have to be as intense as lacrosse to provide vigorous exercise. Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon in Han River Park near Yeouinaru Station, you’ll see disks flying through the sky. They are Frisbees ― those round plastic objects you see in Hollywood movies, which the lead actor throws and his dog runs after and fetches.
But near the Han, it’s a person who goes after it. These are members of Korea Ultimate, a club for aficionados of “ultimate Frisbee.” At first, the game looks quite simple. But take a good look at the players, and you’ll notice they are drenched in sweat. “It looks simple, but it’s more laborious than playing soccer,” said one player. “It’s more of an addiction.”
Ultimate Frisbee ― most people simply call it ultimate ― is a leisure sport brought to Korea by foreigners. Two teams of seven people each run toward the other’s end zone on a rectangular field, passing a Frisbee. One point is scored when a Frisbee reaches the end zone.
This regular scrimmage began in 1997 when a few like-minded foreigners got together. Today, they number over 100, of whom 60 to 70 are non-Koreans.
Swim, bike and run in one afternoon
It’s easy to suppose that serious cardiovascular exertion isn’t fun. There are people, however, who think otherwise. Let’s hear what American triathlete and marathoner Laura Seims, 31, says:
“If it is enjoyed by many people, it is different,” she said. “It’s not only that the relationship between members is strong, but Seoul becomes an exciting city when the scenery is combined with a group spirit.”
These aren’t empty words. Ms. Seims, who gets cold easily, shakes a bit as the sweat dries on her clothes. Another member of the Seoul Synergy club comes by and gives her a jacket. It’s heartwarming to see.
Around 30 foreigners, including people from France, Germany, America and Australia, plus a few Koreans, participate in the club. Some compete in the full triathlon of running, cycling and swimming; others are diehard runners who only concentrate on dropping their marathon time. Some dedicated members get together for workouts five times a week.
If you’re afraid you can’t speak English well enough to join, Grant Pettrie, 49, a runner, says not to worry. “Communication takes place by heavy breathing and sweating, not talking.”
Sport Association Name Web Address Telephone
Lacrosse Clue home.freechal.com/lacrosse Park Won-jae: (017) 214-1628
Ultimate Frisbee Korea Ultimate www.koreaultimate.com (02) 737-7767
Triathlon/Marathon Seoul Synergy www.seoulsynergy.com Park Jong-bin: (011) 9750-3502
Inline Hockey Rush cafe.daum.net/hockeyrush Kim Hong-Seok: (011) 9924-2285
Inline Skating/ Korea International Culture www.klcs.net Oh Young-mi: (016) 814-1303
Swimming/Skiing Organization Leisure Team
by Yoon Hye-shin