The Ulsan Hyundai group celebrates after winning the AFC Champions League at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, Dec. 19./ Thanks To K League

By John Duerden

It goes without saying that it has been a tough year for everyone but, in general, it has been a fairly good one for South Korean soccer. OK, the nationwide team has actually not played a competitive game in 2020 and credentials for the 2022 World Cup need to be practically finished by now however we still have some distance before we reach the midway point however there has actually been lots of action elsewhere.

Among the highlights was the start of the 2020 K-League season. Usually this takes place around the end of February and does not receive a lot of global attention. But this time it started in early May, naturally due to the coronavirus outbreak, and there was a substantial amount of interest.

This was since the country handled the international pandemic specifically well indicating that the K-League was, at the time, by some distance the most significant soccer league in action. It meant that countless fans around a football-starved world tuned in to view the opening game in between Jeonbuk Motors and Suwon Bluewings.

It was a dull affair perked up by a late Lee Dong-guk goal. We didn’t know it for sure then however the Lion King was beginning his last season prior to retirement at the age of 41. By the end, he was commemorating another title as Jeonbuk took a fourth successive championship and a record 8 in total.

Just like 2019, Ulsan Horangi should really have been Korean champion however let it slip right at the end. A minimum of the Tigers lifted a prize by winning the Asian Champions League in December, defeating Persepolis of Iran in the final. It is Ulsan’s 2nd continental crown and well-deserved and it was the last game in charge of the club for coach Kim Do-hoon.

Jeonbuk, FC Seoul and Suwon were also in the Champions league with the previous two not impressing and not surpassing the group phase. Suwon, nevertheless, with a young team and no foreign players succeeded to get to the last eight. En route the group beat Japanese champion Yokohama F. Marinos and took huge costs Vissel Kobe to a charge shootout that was lost 7-6.

Suwon and Seoul nevertheless had a frustrating time at home, both ending up in the bottom half of a K-league that was reduced to 27 games due to the delayed start. Incheon United supplied the drama however, handling somehow to prevent relegation to the second tier on the last day of the season after being at the bottom for the whole campaign.

In the end it was Busan IPark who slipped into last and therefore the K League 2 with Jeju United coming the other way.

While there was plenty of action at home, there was also Kid Heung-min tearing it up in Europe. The Tottenham Hotspur attacker ended 2020 as one of the most feared gamers worldwide. By the time Christmas got here, Kid had currently scored 11 goals in the English Premier League as Spurs looked to mount a genuine title obstacle.

With the transfer of Hwang Hee-chan to Leipzig, among Germany’s leading clubs, there was much to be excited about even in the strangest of years.