Seoul-Suwon rivalry heats up in 2012
Some call it the “super match,” others the “clash between red and blue” or the “metropolitan derby.”
Whatever the nickname is, the football match between FC Seoul and the Suwon Samsung Bluewings is ready to rock football fans again when they face off for the first time this season at 3 p.m. on Sunday at Suwon World Cup Stadium.
The match between the two clubs - dubbed Asia’s top derby by FIFA - is surrounded by an extraordinary atmosphere year after year, with fans and players alike entering the stadium with a must-win attitude.
Sunday’s installment of the rivalry is expected to be no different, with both teams currently performing at a high level and standing atop the league table.
Seoul is coming off an impressive 2-1 victory over last year’s K-League champions, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC, climbing to first place with 10 points off three wins and one draw.
This is the first time Seoul has stood at the top of the table since it claimed the K-League title in 2010.
Suwon dropped its last match 2-1 against Jeju United on Saturday, its first loss of the season. The team is now in third place behind Gwangju FC with nine points off three wins and one loss.
With a win in the derby, Suwon can please fans with the double feat of climbing into first place while knocking Seoul down the ladder.
Suwon swept versus Seoul last season with 2-0 and 1-0 wins. The Bluewings also lead the all-time head-to-head rivalry with 26 wins, 14 draws and 20 losses. It has not lost to Seoul on home turf since 2008.
Montenegrin Dzenan Radoncic - with four goals in as many appearances - and Macedonian Stevica Ristic will lead the attack for Suwon. Seoul FC’s offense will rely on its foreign strikers, Dejan Damjanovic of Montenegro and Mauricio Molina of Columbia.
Molina currently tops the league in scoring with five goals in four appearances.
“This match has been on my radar since I debuted in the K-League,” said Radoncic, who will play in his first derby match on Sunday after transferring from Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in the offseason.
“I will put my best effort forward since this is the match I’ve always wanted to play in.”
Suwon fans will also have their first chance to greet Seoul FC defender Kim Ju-young. The former Gyeongnam FC player refused to sign with Suwon during the offseason after announcing he wanted to play for Seoul.
Intrigue should spill over to the sidelines as well, where Seoul coach Choi Yong-soo and Suwon coach Yoon Sung-hyo - star franchise footballers back in their heyday - will set aside a long personal relationship.
Yoon, 50, and Choi, 41, both graduated from Dongnae Middle School, Dongnae High School and Yonsei University. Both faced each other on the pitch three times - Yoon as midfielder edging Choi, a striker, with one win and two draws.
The chief assistant coaches of both teams also have a history: Park Tae-ha of Seoul and Seo Jung-won of Suwon were assistant coaches on the national team when Cho Kwang-rae was in charge.
But when Cho was dismissed last December, the two found themselves on rival K-League clubs.
With an average attendance of more than 40,000 last season, the derby is almost certain to break the young 2012 season’s crowd record of 25,811.
Suwon, which hosts the match, has been building up the atmosphere since the start of the season, and ticket sales so far suggest the match should draw another huge crowd. The team has paid for television advertisements and signs on over 10,000 buses in Gyeonggi.
“On-site ticket sales may not be available since the match is expected to be sold out,” Suwon stated on the club’s official Web site. “We recommend fans book tickets in advance online.”
To help boost the number of Seoul FC supporters at the game, the club has funded shuttle buses- named “Victory Buses” - to transport fans to Suwon for free.
By Joo Kyung-don [firstname.lastname@example.org]