I've been participating in the Seoul Sunday Football League (SSFL) for a couple months now. And by "participating" I mean cheering, not playing. It's a highlight of my week. A friend of mine invited me to watch him play soccer for several Sundays before I finally accepted. It was an away game, so we rode about 45 minutes outside the city to a pitch at an International school in Suwon. I listened to music on my iPod, sat in the rain, and didn't exactly follow the game. They lost anyway.
But something about being there really appealed to me. I wasn't sightseeing or being a tourist, I was watching my friend play soccer. I wasn't just hanging out with other English teachers, I was making friends with other expats and Koreans. After several more Sundays and one two and half hour bus ride to one of their away games in Cheongju, I got the title of #1 Han River Harriers Fan, and it's a title I cherish.
This weekend, we played a tribute game for John, who was a member of the Harriers this year. And by "we" I do mean I played too. The black bands we all wore on our arms in memory of John made everyone's step a little bit bouncier, smile a little bit bigger, and laughter a little bit heartier. The boys played without a referee, and looked as though they were having the time of their lives. This game was one of the funnest to watch all season. They subbed in regularly so everyone got a chance to play, and they swapped their jerseys as they came on and off. By the end of it everyone was wearing someone else's jersey. I don't know if they were keeping score; I certainly wasn't.
As the #1 Fan, I was called in to play at the end of the game. I wore my jeans, winter boots, and a jersey over my huge winter coat. I don't think I could have been any more excited than I was at the moment I stepped onto that field. They boys, as wonderful as they are, kept passing the ball to me so I could get a chance to kick it around. Neither I nor anyone else could figure out what position I was playing, I was just running up and down the field, following the ball but also trying to keep out of its way. Man, it was fun.
With Christmas just over a week away, the season has ended until next spring. I can't wait.