Here’s your 2021 Seollal sport viewing guide
The Lunar New Year holiday is typically a time for family and food, but this year might be very different for many of us, with social distancing measures keeping people apart. Whether you’re feasting with all the family or tucking into a bowl of tteokguk (rice cake soup) for one, there are plenty of sports to keep everybody entertained over the holiday season.
Football fans have lots to look forward to, with the top Korean players in both men’s and women’s leagues around the world ready to put on a show over the long weekend. The domestic basketball and volleyball leagues will also be back in action, while some of the best male Korean golfers will be in action in the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Baseball fans have to wait a little longer, as the KBO doesn’t return until the beginning of April, but with spring training already underway, there’s bound to be plenty of news for the most committed enthusiasts to read.
Finally, ssireum, a form of traditional Korean wrestling that is always part of the holiday season, will be back on TV for people looking for something a little different to watch this year.
Football fans get an early start on the holiday season this year, with the first big match taking place before the sun even rises on Thursday morning.
Son Heung-min and Tottenham Hotspur will take on Everton in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday night, or at 5:15 a.m. on Thursday morning in Korea.
Spurs face a tough contest in Everton, with the two sides next to each other in the Premier League standing this season. The two teams faced each other in September, with Everton winning 1-0.
For people who don’t fancy the early morning, SPOTV will broadcast the entire game from 8 a.m.
Thursday morning is going to be a busy one for football fans, as both Ji So-yun with Chelsea Women and Cho So-hyun with Tottenham Hotspur Women will be in action.
Chelsea will take on Arsenal at 4 a.m. on Thursday in Korea, a game which first-place Chelsea should expect to win.
Spurs should also be looking at an easy game against Bristol City, kicking off at 4:30 a.m. in Korea. Bristol, in last place in the Women’s Super League, have only won one game so far this year.
The Spurs men’s squad will be back in action on Saturday, or Sunday morning in Korea, taking on Manchester City in the English Premier League. The game will be broadcast live on SPOTV from kick-off at 2:30 a.m.
Elsewhere in Europe, Hwang Hee-chan and German side RB Leipzig will be active in the Bundesliga, taking on Augsburg at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday morning in Korea.
Leipzig, currently second in the league, should face little challenge from No. 13 Augsburg.
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga, SC Freiburg, home to both Kwon Chang-hoon and Jeong Woo-yeong, will face Werder in what should be a close contest at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday evening in Korea.
The PGA Tour returns over the Lunar New Year holiday with the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Pebble Beach, California.
The Pebble Beach Pro-Am is a pro-am in name only, with no amateurs actually taking part this year due to Covid-19 safety measures.
Pebble Beach isn’t a tournament where Korean golfers have traditionally done well, with Charlie Wi’s 2012 runner-up finish the closest a Korean has ever gotten to the crown. But things could go differently this year, with Im Sung-jae, Kim Si-woo and Lee Kyoung-hoon all riding on recent successes going into the tournament.
Despite having not picked up a win this season, Im ranks 14th in the FedExCup standing, with two top-10 finishes and 13 appearances. Kim, who picked up a win at The American Express a few weeks ago, is one ahead at No. 13.
Lee Kyoung-hoon, at No. 48 on the FedExCup ranking, enters the tournament fresh off his career-best finish, runner-up at the Phoenix Open last week.
The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am will be held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with all the action to be broadcast on JTBC Golf throughout the weekend.
If you’re looking for something a little more traditional this holiday season, the 2021 Lunar New Year Ssireum Contest is running from Wednesday to Monday at Hapcheon Gymnasium in Hapcheon County, South Gyeongsang.
Ssireum, a form of traditional Korean wrestling, has strong ties to Korean traditional holidays like Lunar New Year and Chuseok, the harvest festival, and local tournaments are held across the country during the holiday season.
These tournaments operate on a last-man-standing basis. Contestants enter the ring until one forces the other’s upper body to touch the ground. That person is then eliminated and another challenger enters the ring.
The last man standing when all challengers are defeated is the winner.
The Hapcheon contest is being televised, so budding ssireum fans will be able to tune into KBS1 over Lunar New Year to check out the event.
The Korea Ssireum Association is hosting the event with Hapcheon County and Hapcheon Sports Council co-sanctioning it. A total of 200 players from 30 teams will compete in the male, female and group competitions.
If you don’t have access to a TV, the contest will also be broadcast on the Korea Ssireum Association’s YouTube channel.
Volleyball fans have lots to look forward to this holiday, as there is a match scheduled every day.
On Thursday, both the male and female leagues will be in action.
In the men’s V-League, the No. 1 Korean Air Jumbos will take on the Suwon Kepco Vixtorm at Incheon Gyeyang Gymnasium in Incheon.
Over in the women’s league, Korea Expressway Women’s Volleyball Club will take on the dominant Heungkuk Life Pink Spiders at Gimcheon Indoor Gymnasium in Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang.
On Friday, only the men’s league will play, with the Hyundai Capital Skywalkers facing the Ansan OK Financial Group Okman at Yoo Gwan-soon Gymnasium in Cheonan, South Chungcheong.
On Saturday it will be just the women’s league, with the Hwaseong IBK Altos taking on Hyundai Engineering & Construction Hillstate at Hwaseong Indoor Stadium in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi.
Sunday will see both leagues play, with the Vixtorm returning to face Daejeon Samsung Fire Bluefangs for the men at 2 p.m., and GS Caltex Seoul KIXX taking on Daejeon KGC facing off at 4 p.m.
Basketball fans can get their fix early on, with both the Korean Basketball League (KBL) and the Women’s Korean Basketball League (WKBL) set to play nearly all their games on Thursday.
Eight of the KBL’s 10 teams will be in action on Thursday, the only exception being the Incheon Electroland Elephants and the Seoul Samsung Thunders, who will play their game on Wednesday evening.
Thursday will see the Goyang Orion Orions take on the Busan KT Sonicboom and the Wonju DB Promy face Anyang KGC at 3 p.m. Later in the evening the No. 1 Jeonju KCC Egis will face the Seoul SK Knights and the Ulsan Hyundai Mobis Phoebus will take on the Changwon LG Sakers, with both games at 7 p.m.
Over in the WKBL, there will be just one game on Thursday: The Busan BNK Sum will take on the Bucheon Hana 1Q — the two bottom-ranked teams in the league — at 2 p.m.
The women’s league will return on Sunday, with the second-place Asan Woori Bank Wibee facing the Cheongju KB Stars at 6 p.m.
If that isn’t enough basketball for you, NBA games will be held in the United States throughout the long weekend.
BY JIM BULLEY, SEO JI-EUN [email@example.com]