Gerard Vasta is on the ground in Korea and gives us his take on what it was like to experience the rivalry between Australia and Japan at the East Asian Cup.
The message had been sent out and I was well aware of the Australian supporters meet up time of 7pm at Suwon Station. Suwon is about 50 minutes by train from Seoul and Hwasong stadium is a further 30 minutes by taxi to the south. A liberal use of the tradition of the East Asian Cup keeping games confined to the one city.
I'm at the wrong bus stop after sneaking in a walk around the historic Hwasong fortress and the meet up time of 7pm comes and goes - I'm going to have to negotiate a taxi to the stadium.
Time is ticking and not wanting to miss kick-off I take up an offer of $35. The taxi driver feigns not being happy, but I start conversation with him and he likes that I'm supporting Australia versus traditional Korean foes Japan.
It must have put him in a good mood because he starts going through red lights at will. In the distance the ultra-modern Hwasong Stadium with flowing lines and LED lighting beckons us.
The refrains of the Japanese anthem are met with the voices of Japanese tourists as I round the northern curve of the stadium. I've randomly met a Korean fan who was looking for the ticket office and it seems natural to give him my spare ticket.
In the stadium the crowd is pretty disappointing again - but not the Aussie contingent. The mix of expats, travellers and people on business are more vocal than ever. Each new Aussie face that comes in late is welcomed and thrown straight into the chants - standing room only in the front row.
The Japanese crowd around us stare at us bewilderedly but gradually warm to our vociferous chants as they appreciate the energy of the travellers.
The scoreline is almost irrelevant as we don't stop the cheering. At 0-1 down it was a good time to remind the Japanese fans with "3-1, 3-1,3-1 3-1 we beat you 3-1 (in the World Cup)." When the Socceroos did score it goes to a different level and it's a good time to direct a repeat dose at the air-hostesses who've been mocking us from five rows back.
Unfortunately the end result didn't go our way on this occasion and the game finished with a big love in of Australian and Japanese fans proceeding to spill out the gates, along with the friendly Korean volunteers who all seemed to be less than 20.
Somehow we'd managed to end up with the air-hostesses waiting for the bus out of the stadium. It was pretty curious to have a lack of transport here and I'm sure our new Japanese friends thought it was some kind of elaborate Aussie humour telling them the bus wasn't coming for an hour.
We're two games down and the experience here is unbelievable. A true example of football being able to bridge cultural differences and a celebration of national pride. Bring on the China match and another away game for the best supporters in Asia!
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