Thursday, October 05, 2006

South Korea's top club attracts the lowest crowds

K-League club Seongnam Ilwha Chunma aims to remain a powerful side, having won six titles since 1993. "There's a lot of pressure," Head Coach Kim Hak-bom told John Duerden of the Korea Herald. "Our goal is always to win the championship and other competitions too. Just maintaining our position as one of the top teams is tough by itself."

Seongnam is unusual in that it may be South Korea's most successful team but it attracts the lowest crowds. "The team, Ilhwa Chunma, moved to Seongnam from Chonan in 2000 and it wasn't warmly welcomed by the sizeable Christian population in the city. The protestors objected to the fact that the club is owned by the controversial Unification Church founded by Reverend Moon Sung-myong," Duerden explained.

Kim cares only about his team but is at a loss to explain why Seongnam have few followers. "I just don't know," he says as he lights a cigarette. "As a coach, I am not happy with the situation. We do well but the fans don't come. It could be religious reasons or regional reasons, In the K-League, the regional feeling is weak. Seongnam people have no feeling for their city team. All we can do is play and perform well and then the supporters will know that and hopefully come back. The club officials are always trying to think of ways to attract fans. I hope to be like Manchester United where the tickets are already sold out."

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