Last night I went to Hongkou stadium with several Spill Group colleagues to watch a football match between North Korea and South Korea. Not just a friendly match, but a World Cup 2010 qualifier. The original plan was to hold the match in Pyongyang, but the North-Korean government did not allow FIFA to flag the South-Korean flag nor to play the South-Korean National Anthem. So the match was moved to Shanghai, which was a good thing for South Korea, because there is a huge population of South Koreans in this city.
We did not have tickets for the match, so decided to go there a bit early to the Hongkou stadium and get some tickets on the black market. We underestimated the traffic jams, however, and arrived exactly 3 minutes before match time at the stadium. That turned out to be a lucky thing, because the ticket scalpers that still had tickets were very anxious to sell them – better a low price for a ticket than nothing at all. We managed to get VIP tickets that normally cost RMB 1000 for RMB 200, which seemed reasonable to us.
However, now the problem was to find the entrance. The ticket said gate 4, but at gate 4 the guards sent us to the next gate. And at the next gate they sent us back to gate 4. Then they told us to go up, so we walked up the stairs. But no, there they told us to go down again. It would have been funny if the match had not started yet, and I got pretty angry at the guards. Finally one of them said he knew how to get there and he would walk with us. Because we were in a hurry we sort of forced him to run with us. I asked him which gate we would have to enter, but he just pointed with his hands that we had to move ahead. Well, the end of the story is that we ran all around the stadium and ended up at the same location where we had started.
Now I was really pissed at the guy. The match was in full swing and we could not see it despite our high-end tickets. I made some angry remarks that I won’t repeat here, and went off to find a more knowledgable guard. Finallly we figured out that we had to go to down to the parking area, and take an elevator from there to our stands. We missed the first 15 minutes of the game because of this, but luckily nobody had scored so far.
Actually, nobody scored during the whole match, but it was still cool to see two teams that are technically still at war fight each other. Most of the audience consisted of South Koreans, but the DPRK had one section of the stadium filled up with its citizens. Despite their relatively small number they still managed to make a lot of sound when their team had possession of the ball.
Koen Bekkering, an intern at Spill Group Asia, got tickets in the middle of the South Korean crowd, and to our surprise we found out he was standing right below us. We watched him wave the South-Korean flag with the Koreans, and even wear a South-Korean t-shirt. Of course he had no idea we were watching him.
It was a nice match: the level of game play was not super, but the atmosphere in the stadium was great. I learned a couple of South-Korean football songs – well, at least the tune of them, no idea what they were realling singing. And our seats were fantastic, which also helped to enjoy the game of course. A good beginning of a nice evening, because after that we went out and some of us did not get home until 3:30 AM or so!