Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Who Should You Support in the K-League: Part 1

Posted on 7 May 2020 by Thomas Clark

Decided to follow the new K-League season? Congratulations, you’re amongst a growing number of foreign fans, and you are in for a treat, starting at 11am BST live on the K-Leagues YouTube channel complete with English commentary!

Following a league is all well and good, but now you need a team to really get behind. If you support a Premier League team this is the guide for you.

But be warned, K-League 1 only has 12 teams so you may well be joining forces with a supporter of a rival team, but in times like this coming together for the greater good is what we all need.

If you’re a fan of a non-Premier League side, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll advise you on your options. Alternatively check out the kit guide and follow your gut or leave it to chance:

Busan IPark = Brighton and Hove Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers

What better team for Seagulls fans to get behind than newly promoted Busan. Situated in the south coastal city of, you guessed it, Busan, this delightful away day is never complete without a trip to the beach. Brighton fans you have your team.

(Picture courtesy of Busan Ipark FC)

Little bit of a stretch here but Wolves fans could be joining forces with Brighton

As one of the founding members of the K-League, Busan are a team with a rich history having won four league titles. However, their last was in 1997. With the K-League only 37 years old that is a long wait. Wolves last won the top tier in 1959, tenuous enough of a link for me.

Daegu FC = Leicester City and Southampton

Southampton fans might not be too pleased having to join forces with the side that thrashed them 9-0 early in the season. Time to let bygones be bygones, this is for the simple reason of Daegu being a nice club that bloods young talent, a team that neutrals can get behind, much like the Saints and Leicester.

Coming off the back of their best ever finish (5th), Daegu will be looking to build on this and mount a challenge for the Champions League spots and who knows what else. Sound familiar Foxes?

Gangwon FC = Newcastle Utd and Crystal Palace

Gangwon have never won a top tier league or cup trophy, hello Palace, but come into this season off a steady campaign last time out with a 6th placed finish.

(Picture courtesy of Gangwon FC)

It has been so long since Newcastle won a trophy (unless you count the 2006 Inter-Toto Cup, yeah didn’t think so) they might feel like they have never won one so have found their brethren in the team tucked away in the north away from the more civilized members of the K-League. Luckily for Newcastle fans I’m feeling generous and you get a second choice later on.

Gwangju FC = Norwich City and Bournemouth

This was a particularly easy one, a yo-yo team that ran away with the second tier last season, based in the middle of nowhere and play in yellow. I feel like this barely needs writing but Norwich City fans, you have your club.

(Picture courtesy of Gwangju FC)

As for Bournemouth, well, Gwangju are hoping to spring a surprise in their first season back in the top flight, they play in a small stadium (having moved from the 42,000 seater World Cup behemoth totally unsuited to a club of their size) and also have a manager born in 1977.

Liverpool fans could slip in here as well, Gwangju’s crest is that of a griffin which looks remarkably like the Liver bird.

Incheon United = West Ham United and Watford

Incheon are situated in a city close to the capital Seoul, and despite what they might say Watford are not a London club. A side used to battling relegation but always just about managing to survive.

(Picture courtesy of Incheon United FC)

This will be a fun one, Incheon are West Ham because… 

Incheon are somewhat the butt of Korean football jokes, their best ever finish in the top flight was second, true it is one better than West Ham’s third, and are now more likely to be found battling relegation than challenging for honours. 

The Nerozzaurre (so named for their blue and black Inter Milan style kit) have a rivalry with much more successful FC Seoul. However like West Ham, their main rivals very much see them lower down the pecking order and have far greater league rivals. In FC Seoul’s case that is with Suwon Bluewings

Incheon used to play in a stadium built for athletics, but have since moved to a football specific ground, jealous West Ham fans?

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors = Manchester City

Jeonbuk are a 21st Century giant and go into the new season on the back of a three-peat title triumph. 

(Pictures courtesy of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC)

If I was writing this ten years ago they would be Man Utd but these days under charismatic Portuguese Jose Morais (former number two to Jose Mourinho at Inter, Chelsea and Real Madrid) Jeonbuk are a record breaking team and very much the team to beat.

I was edging towards Liverpool but then remembered Liverpool have not yet won a league since 1990, so I will have to stick with reigning Champions Manchester City. 

Part 2 to follow or alternatively if you want to know more about the K-League and some help in choosing a team then @GazzettaKorea have the pod for you: