You do not choose a team to follow, rather the team finds you. Whether it be geography, family, or experience, the essence of a true football fan is one who has come to have a team permanently imprinted on their conscience, and they will show it a kind of loyalty that makes little sense in any other walk of life. It is in this mind, that I came to be a follower of Ansan football, after attending my first match some eight years. The reasoning behind my ‘choice’ of team was a simple twist of fate, a job placement had landed me in Ansan, and of course, with a defined hometown away from home, my ‘choice’ was made for me. This has been a similar story to the myriad of fans who have come and gone from the now 8 years and counting fan group: Ansan Foreign Supporters Club. And, after 8 years, the group is still going strong, in the relative capacity of K League football (Ansan has an average attendance in 2016 of under 1,500), and has its biggest game in its history coming up this Wednesday (Facebook Event Information HERE). This article, I hope will resonate with fan groups across Korea who added a flavor to the Korean game that is quite unique in world football.
History of Football in Ansan and in the FA Cup
Ansan has had two football teams, originally housing the religious based team ‘Hallelujah’ from 2007 to 2012, before becoming home to the Police team in 2014. It is important to note in the context of this article, that support for Ansan, has been a continuum based on the city itself, rather than of the franchise within. Wimbledon fans did not move to Milton Keynes, and nor did Ansan fans move to Goyang, at least those fans for whom geography was the decisive factor. Therefore, AFSC has witnessed 7 FA Cup campaigns prior to this season, with this being the 9th campaign for an Ansan based team. And in short, Ansan’s FA Cup forays have been disastrous. Save for a win on penalties against Incheon United in 2008, the best the (a) team has managed to muster is taking Ulsan Hyundai close in 2011 before a bizarre own goal knocked Ansan out of the competition. Reports of some of these calamities can be found on our website: www.ansanfc.co.uk, but needless to say, Ansan have rarely progressed far, and have only managed to come up against a top flight opponent on 4 occasions.
The chart shows Ansan’s progress across their 9 FA Cup campaigns, and as is clear, 2016 is the farthest the team has ever gone in the competition (2007-2009 is misleading as the competition had fewer rounds then). So, just like Ansan’s league position at the time of writing, this is new territory for the team, and its supporters who have previously celebrated momentous occasions like snatching 12th on the last day of the 2012 season.
It is not just simple numbers however. When AFSC first got started almost a decade ago, it was in the National League, and fan numbers in the stadium were even lower than they are now. Meeting other foreign based fan groups was easy in such sparse surroundings, and it is noted that on some away trips, there were only foreign fan groups in attendance. Back then, the dream was simple: draw a big K League team in the cup. Meetings with Incheon United and Ulsan were exciting, but they didn’t have the prestige of allowing a meager band to face off against thousands of other supporters. The dream was always one team: FC Seoul.
A big opponent could have come from promotion of course. Suwon City were rivals for many years, but they have since made it to the big time. Ansan however have had a poor history in terms of league finishes:
Now and Beyond
The 2014 season, the inaugural season of the police team in Ansan is the exception to the rule, and ended with an awful collapse in the play-off game: a 0-3 defeat.
What all this boils down to is that for many years, Ansan fans have dreamed about the game that awaits us on Wednesday. It will be a game like no other, in a setting utterly alien to our fans. It is a moment that all the fans of lower league Korean football deserve, considering those fans are often the only constant about clubs outside of the top divisions.
There is an extra personal kicker to the game for myself however. After 8 years of waiting, I will have to sit this game out. As a new father I’ll be watching with my newborn son from home, and it will be the fresher faces in AFSC club who will be carrying the banner. i hope this is not the last chance I have to see Ansan play at this level, although given FC Seoul’s fairly good season in the top flight, it is difficult to see Ansan scraping through, the chance to go to the World Cup stadium might arise again as early as next year if Ansan can stay top of the Challenge.
Ansan Foreign Supporters Club Links
+ On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ansan-Foreign-Supporters-Club-210147385696131/
+ On Twitter: https://twitter.com/ansanfsc
+ Official Website: http://www.ansanfc.co.uk/
Come on Ansan!
Ansan Foreign Supporters Club