Saturday I experienced my first soccer outing in Korea. I was picked up at 1:30 and we headed to the field. We ride for about 8 minutes and then the guy I’m with points and says, “soccer field” as we head towards Gimcheon University. So we drive up a hill and through the entrance to the university and I’m thinking we’ll be playing on their side field or practice pitch, which is what would happen in the states. But we round the corner and the guy I’m with says “we play” as he points to this pristine perma-marked lush Astro Turf field that’s not for anything BUT soccer. It has alternating shades of green that look hand picked for perfection…I just can’t believe we get to use this.

So by this time I’m questioning what I’ve got myself into not knowing how serious these guys are or if this is an actual league or just a pick up game (you’d think not considering the facility). All I knew was, Saturday was (translated into English) “soccer testing” and afterwards I could decide if I wanted to play more on Sunday. I got out of the pickup with my bag and started walking to the field. As I walk through the gate I felt the vibe change from warm fuzzy puppies to something like a mix between hungry hyenas’ seeing an easy dinner and several toddlers being interrupted by the jolly green giant. All the while the only thing going through MY mind is feeling a random connection to 2Pac singing All Eyez on Me.

Much like a kid with new toys on Christmas these guys wouldn’t even wait for me to get my boots on before trying to get me out on the pitch. Herrrrrrrre we go I thought. Kick the ball not the ground. Hard to feet soft to space. Keep moving. [repeat] 20 minutes later a whistle blew and the warm up balls (yep they had ‘em) went into the ball bag and the game ball came out. I was tossed a jersey and told to “stay”. While my shorts didn’t have a matching gold number to go with my jersey like theirs, I still felt pretty good. Apparently I’m starting. Sweet.

Game 1 Half 1. Play. 30 minutes later the half time whistle sang. I didn’t do much. I had a few good passes while logging minimal mistakes.  My goal was to always be moving into space.

G1H2: About the same…with the addition of getting rolled up by the keeper when I attempted a header that came from a cross delivered by our left forward. Hello ground.

G2: I sat out. I met 2 other guys, one who spoke pretty good English. One was 28 and the other 29 and both were in the top 4 players there. We chat it up for a bit and out comes the request for me to change teams. “You switch. You play for us. We are friends. Yes?” Aww, they’re befriending the lonely foreigner. How cute.

G3H1: I seemed to do a lot more running this half. I had 2 good right-footed crosses and a really sweet chest trap one touch where I passed it back. It was a good 1-2 give n’ go.

G3H2: About half way through I was playing right striker and made a diagonal run towards the goal as my right halfback gave a great through pass. I dribbled to the near corner of the 18 and had a decent ground shot destined for the far post. It went wide by inches. It was still a good feeling though finally getting an acceptable shot off. Not to mention a confidence boost. Five minutes later we had a good left line break and the left striker dribbled to the inside of the 18, got caught up with a defender, and ended up a few feet closer to the goal than him. I was on the 6 by the right post and stopped moving because I had the split thought “ah! Off sides!” Then thought, keep playing, no whistle. I yelled Yep! Yep! And through came the ground ball. The keeper came towards me and after a slight body check, the near post was all mine. “Placement over power” I thought and tapped it in for the goal.

By the end of that game I looked more like a waddling duck than a walking person but the pleasure was certainly worth the pain.

Five blisters, 1 black toenail, 1 goal, 20 new friends, and 3 hours later, it’s easy to say that was the best afternoon I’ve had since being in Korea.

I know now that the get together is just a very official looking series of afternoon pick up games. If there was some sort of newcomer test, I think I passed because they asked me to come play on Sunday on a real grass field. What!? As if this wasn’t awesome enough. Thank you Korea. Thank you WORLD for liking soccer more than the U.S. does. 

Ryan Gournic
4/17/2011

Brush up on your ball skills so I we can play sometime. Good to see you're finally enjoying the world's favorite game.

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sharon o
4/25/2011

hey von....your mom and corbin came by today..didnt know mom broke her ankle and messed her foot up!! dang!! corbin hooked me up with your blog...i have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your adventures!! proud of you rolling stone...look forward to reading more from you....

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Gran
5/9/2011

Von...You are having so many adventures it sounds like,making memories for a lifetime. I am sure Rodney would concur with me that when making any decision it would be made through prayer. Will miss you but This is another decision that must be made.

Enjoy your adventures and you are quite a prolific writer. We love you and miss you.

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