Welcome to a continuation on the regular series on The 94th Minute, called “Starting XI”. This is where I ask various people, who are fans of football, a number of questions to get to know them better! The majority of the questions will differ for each person, but the final question will always be:
“Who would be in your all-time, favourite starting XI?”
This is a question where anyone can be put into their starting eleven, whether they are famous footballers, football legends, past or unknown players who had an impact on their childhood, or even players they have played with or coached. Anyone is acceptable in their XI providing they give a reason for their inclusion!
The thirty-first instalment of the series is with Peter Hampshire, the Gwangju FC and Korean national team columnist for K League United. Based in the North Jeolla city of Gimje, he is another member of the ‘Korean Reds‘, the group of Korean-based fans of Barnsley FC. In addition, he also founded the Korean-themed Facebook group called Chimaek Culture.
For the Starting XI interview, I wanted to know how he got involved with Korean football and writing for KLU, what have been his favourite grounds and which ones would he like to visit in the future, as well as the performances of Gwangju FC and Barnsley last year and players to watch out for from the Yellows. Finally I wanted to know what his all-time, favourite eleven players were.
Q. Firstly, thank you for answering my questions. How did you first get interested in Korean football? Was it linked to your account, Chimaek Culture?
My knowledge of Korean football didn’t stretch past Jeonbuk Motors playing in green and the Korean 2002 World Cup squad before moving to Busan in 2014. Some would say it’s not much more extensive now! I met an Aston Villa fan (Jack Hands) at a training camp for teachers and we toured Korea seeing as many games and cities as possible. I can’t say we delved too deep into the tactical side, but had great fun getting to know the football culture here and blagged our way into many a media zone. Watching Seoul E-Land’s inaugural game from next to the dugouts was when I became interested from a journalistic perspective.
Q. Could you give some information on Chimaek Culture for those who did not come across it?
I returned home to Yorkshire in 2015, after a year in Busan, to study journalism in Leeds and the final assignment was to create a news website. Knowing that a return to Korea was on the cards I focused on Korean Culture in the UK from film festivals to more serious news. Chimaek is a mix of chicken and the Korean word for beer and you can find Chimaek places in as remote places as my new home Gimje. Calling it this was an ‘on the spot job’ after boring my classmates about all aspects of Korea for three years and acting as an unofficial tourism ambassador.
Q. How did you initially get involved with K League United and become their Gwangju and South Korean national team correspondent?
- K League United: http://www.kleagueunited.com/
Matt Binns (Associate Editor, and Jeonbuk Motors columnist for KLU) and I were also at the same teacher training in 2014 so I’ve been hearing about Shaun Goater and Maine Road for a good six years now. I was interacting with KLU over Twitter so knew everyone’s quirks, which is important as we don’t want any stray Sheffield Wednesday fans getting in. When I got to Gimje in 2018, Ryan Walters got in touch with me and Gwangju was a practical fit for me as it’s only an hour away. I didn’t realise at the time how lucky I would be to cover them in 2019. I feel like they gave me the national team gig because I don’t have a girlfriend, so there’s no barrier for a Monday night trip to Hwaseong.
Q. What do you make of Gwangju’s season last year? Are you optimistic that the Yellows can stay in K1 this season or will they make a swift return to K2?
Contrary to other opinions on Gwangju’s K2 title last season, I don’t think they dominated games too often. Promotion was secured with relative ease but I feel they need more in central midfield if they are to comfortably make the step up. They’ve made some sensible and experienced signings but they’re certainly not strong enough to push for a top-half finish. Talisman striker Felipe will be up there in the top five goal scorers this season, so if they can keep hold of him for the duration, their new stadium should see top flight football into 2021.
Q. Are there any players at Gwangju (or elsewhere even) who you think readers should keep a focus on for the future? Are there any potentially good players coming through?
Om Won-sang has been the revelation from Gwangju to enjoy success at a national level but I feel he will be outshone by Busan’s Lee Dong-jun in years to come. For my money Lee will be the next Korean product to succeed in Europe and I really hope that an English club can negate visa issues to sign him. Gwangju had quite an experienced squad last term but Lee Hee-gyun also stood out early on before fading away, especially since the arrival of Willyan on the wing.
Q. What has been your favourite away trip so far? Any particular stand-out moments for you?
My favourite Korean away day so far would be the 2014 FA Cup final to see Seongnam beat FC Seoul on penalties. We sat next to a Seongnam technical director in the away end, who turned up on the pitch holding the trophy during the celebrations. I’ll never forget a fan hugging me in tears during the shootout. In 2015 I got trapped at the Seogwipo World Cup stadium watching Jeju versus Jeonbuk thanks to a timely typhoon. We were there until midnight watching Jurassic Park in the director’s box!
I used to follow non-league side Busan Transportation Corporation and the derby at Gimhae was a feisty occasion taking around 20 fans with us. In the last couple of years seeing Gwangju’s games at Daejeon Citizen were memorable and any return to Busan is worthwhile despite the eight-hour round trip.
Q. Are there any stadiums or clubs that you are particularly looking forward to visiting in the near future?
My weeks are geared towards heading to as many games as possible with the KLU boys. We’re trying to organise a weekender somewhere further afield like Pohang, a vastly underrated stadium, to have a bit of a reunion following the social distancing. It was great to see a full stadium on trips to Daegu last season, so that’s on the cards, as is a ride on the slow train to Mokpo with Scott Whitelock in our Barnsley shirts to watch some non-league action. I plan to leave Korea in the next year and still have Seongnam and Gangwon to tick off in the top division.
Q. If you could make any improvements to the K League experience or South Korean football in general, what would they be and why?
I’d end the VAR experiment and ban fans chanting “It’s ok” after a defeat. I’ve noticed a couple of your other interviewees mention they miss the bite of British football in the stands and it can feel a bit sanitised here sometimes. It will be a lengthy process but Daegu have shown the way with building their new stadium in the centre of town, attracting capacity crowds.
For K1 I’d also scrap the split and just have a 44 game season with the bottom two automatically relegated.
Q. How do you think the national team are getting on under Paulo Bento? Is he still the right man for the job, and can the Taeguk Warriors qualify for the 2022 World Cup?
Should Korea not qualify for the 2022 World Cup it would be a source of great embarrassment considering the strength of their group. They have played arguably their two toughest fixtures away to Lebanon and North Korea and sit second in the group, knowing they will leapfrog Turkmenistan into a qualifying position should they do the double over them. With three of the remaining four fixtures at home they will be fine. Bento has put his stamp on the side who are executing his attacking style well and with Kim Hak-beom bringing through a talented crop of youngsters fans should be excited looking to Tokyo 2021 and the 2022 World Cup.
Q. As another member of the ‘Korean Reds’, how do you think Barnsley’s season is going? Are you happy with Gerhard Struber’s management so far?
Getting up at 4am or staying up until 2am to watch a squad ill-prepared for the rigours of Championship football has been tough at times but that’s not the fault of Struber who has seen an upturn in results with the squad handed to him. Barnsley managers in the Championship are on a hiding to nothing under the current philosophy of recruiting young potential to make money on, knowing they will be sold after reaching the level required to push on. I’m sceptical about our current ownership building a portfolio of clubs but still can’t wait to be back at Oakwell and have already started planning League One away days such as Accrington and Rochdale with my Dad. Whatever happens, English students in rural Korean villages will be subjected to videos of Barnsley for the foreseeable future. Last year I taught at one of Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors’ academy schools which housed some under-15 national team players. Should the next Son Heung-min spring from there, I’m claiming credit for showing Adam Hammill’s Wembley goals on repeat.
Q. Finally, who are in your all-time favourite eleven, and the reasons for your picks?
Goalkeeper: Francesco TOLDO
I used to play in goal at school so my Dad bought me a knock-off grey Toldo shirt from a market in Venice. From then on I looked out for him on Football Italia on Channel 4 and tried to replicate his saves in the garden.
Left back: Darren BARNARD
My first Barnsley season ticket was the year following relegation from the Premier League and Barnard was part of a great squad which eventually saw us lose 4-2 to Ipswich in the play-off final at Wembley’s last competitive club match. There’s never been a better goal scored in terms of technique than his volley against Huddersfield to put us 6-0 up at half time.
Centre-back: John STONES
His talent was obvious straight from his debut at Oakwell. I remember being hungover at Peterborough away on New Year’s Day 2013. We lost, but Stones was the best player on the pitch as a teenager. I think he gets a lot of unwarranted stick because of City’s style of play.
Centre-back: Mick McCARTHY
My Dad recounts tales of the early 80’s Barnsley squad with Ronnie Glavin running the midfield. A centre-back pairing of Stones and McCarthy would complement each other well and confuse strikers with their Barnsley dialect.
Right back: Bobby HASSELL
He once put Robinho on his backside in a pre-season friendly. A dependable right back who consistently put in a 7/10 performance he’s still at the club after arriving in 2004.
Left midfield: Adam HAMMILL
A scorer of spectacular goals who gets you up off your seat. After Barnsley’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win at Wembley, our first ever victory there, my Dad said he can die happy now having seen us lift a trophy. Without Hammill we wouldn’t have won that day.
Central midfield: YEO Reum
I was opting for Daegu’s Cesinha as the best K League player I’ve seen play live but I feel Yeo Reum will balance Hourihane nicely and is a loyal legend at Gwangju. I wrote him off at the end of last season but he’s in Park Jin-seop’s K1 plans once more.
Central midfield: Conor HOURIHANE
My favourite among the 11. It riles me how underrated he is at Villa. From turning down moves to Wednesday to his leaving present free kick against Leeds, an all-round midfielder who whipped in tempting free kicks time after time.
Right midfield: Martin DEVANEY
Another fantastic crosser of the ball, Devaney was a regular at a time I followed home and away without fail. Nicknamed ‘Disco’ because of his dancing feet, he’s another who’s made Barnsley his second home.
Centre forward: Alan SHEARER
I used to love that Newcastle side of the late 90’s and his biography was the first book I remember reading. His goal scoring record in the Premier League is unrivalled and a bit of eye candy for my Grandma who fancied him when he had hair.
Centre forward: Robert LEWANDOWSKI
It’s hard to leave out some Barnsley legends up front such as Bruce Dyer or István Ferenczi, who I went to see play for Vasas SC in Budapest. However, having lived in Germany and the Netherlands for a year, I had to include someone from those leagues. I was in the away end at Hamburg as Dortmund were at the height of their powers hammering them 5-1 with Lewandowski getting two.
A massive thank you to Pete for answering my questions on Korean and Barnsley football, as well as finding out more information on Gwangju. Please check out his articles on Gwangju and South Korea on the K League United website, they are brilliant! Also I enjoyed his selection of players, with Barnsley legends a plenty, as well as a Welsh addition in Darren Barnard! Brilliant stuff!
To find out more about Pete the links to his social media accounts, as well as his KLU articles can be found below:
- Twitter: @HampshirePeter
- Instagram: chimaek.culture
- KLU Gwangju Articles: http://www.kleagueunited.com/search/label/Gwangju
To read or catch up on the previous Starting XI episodes, they can all be found at the following link HERE.
If there you have any feedback, comments or suggestions who I should interview next in the series, let me know either below in the comments box, tweet me @The94thMin or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! It would be good to hear what you think about the series, and what have been your favourite episodes so far!
Finally, I am nearly completing my fifth month of doing a charity challenge of staying sober for the entirety of 2020! It’s not been easy (especially considering what has happened with COVID-19 and the whole lockdown malarkey) but I am hoping to raise a lot of money for the mental health charity, MIND. So if you would like to see how I am progressing in my challenge, or even be kind enough to add a donation, the link is here: