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Sunday, 27 September 2015

Korean Joga Bonito, Part XI: Daegu FC


Daegu Football Club, commonly referred to as Daegu FC (Hangul/Hanja: 대구 FC/大邱FC), is a South Korean professional football club based in Daegu Metropole. The club was founded as a community club at the end of 2002, and the club made their K League Classic debut in 2003. Daegu FC have been one of the better supported clubs of the K League, with average attendance numbers at home (prior to their poor 2009 season) around 15,000 to 17,000. However, the club's poor performance in 2009 resulted in a decline in attendance to 8,500.

Its home stadium is Daegu Stadium - dubbed as the Blue Arc Stadium by its fans, located at 180 Universiade Road, Daeheung-dong 504-beonji, Daegu Suseong-gu. It was formerly named Daegu World Cup Stadium but was changed to Daegu Stadium on 5 March 2008. This stadium was one of the host venues of the 2002 FIFA World Cup (noted as the biggest World Cup Stadium in Korea), the main stadium for the 2003 Summer Universiade and the main venue of the 2011 World Championships in Athletics. The stadium with the capacity of 66,422 spectators is accessible by using Interstate 55: Daegu-Busan-JungAng Expressway to EXIT 9: Suseong IC or DTRO Line 2 to Station 238: Daegu Grand Park Station

Historically, Daegu have always placed in the lower reaches of the K League Classic. Their best season in the K League Classic to date was 2006, when they finished in 7th place (out of 14 teams), as well as reaching the quarter-finals of the Korean FA Cup. Two years later, in 2008, Daegu reached the semi-finals of the Korean FA Cup, but lost to the Pohang Steelers. At the end of the 2013 season Daegu was relegated to the K League Challenge.

Daegu FC was established in 2002 as a community club (generally in Korea, 'community-club' means that the club issues shares) based in the city of Daegu. The city is a key shareholder, and the current mayor is chairman of the club. Following their foundation, the club entered the 2003 season of the K League under manager Park Jong-Hwan. Park had previously managed the national side for a number years in the 1980s and 1990s. The club's entry, together with that of Gwangju Sangmu, brought the number of teams participating in the league to 12.

The K League structure for 2003 required each team to play a staggering 44 matches, making for a long drawn out season. Daegu ultimately finished their first season 11th (out of 12 teams) in the league, winning 7 games, and drawing 16. In the 2003 Korean FA Cup, Daegu reached the quarterfinals but against their first serious opponent (previous wins had been against lower league sides), and fellow K League club Ulsan Hyundai Horangi, they were knocked out in a 1-nil result. Daegu improved in 2004 to 10th place in the league, which due to Incheon United's entry, now boasted 13 clubs. The format of the league had changed following the long 2003 season, and now required each club to play home and away matches in two stages (each club playing 12 matches in each stage) against the other participating clubs; the winners of each stage qualifying for a playoff phase along with the top two teams from the overall table. This meant that only 24 regular season games were played. In the FA Cup, Daegu were knocked out in the round of 32 by National League side Ansan Hallelujah. In the Samsung Hauzen Cup, a new cup competition run as a league competition specifically for K League clubs (thus excluding National League and lower tier clubs) during the K League's mid-season break, finished 8th out of 13 teams. The following season saw Daegu placed 8th place in the league and 7th in the Samsung Hauzen Cup. In the FA Cup, after defeating University and National League sides, Daegu were knocked out in the quarterfinals in a 1–2 loss to another K League side, the Jeonnam Dragons.

Prior to the start of the 2006 K League season, Daegu participated in the Tongyeong Cup. The Tongyeong Cup was a four-team invitational tournament held in Tongyeong, South Korea. As well as Daegu and fellow K League club Incheon United, A-League side Queensland Roar and Beijing Guo'an were also part of the tournament. After beating both Incheon and Beijing, Daegu drew 0–0 with Queensland, winning the Tongyeong Cup and thus the first piece of silverware for Daegu's trophy cabinet.

Unfortunately, Daegu's TongYeong Cup form did not carry over into the 2006 K League season proper, and the club had a disappointing first stage. Winning only 2 games, they placed joint llth, alongside Gwangju and debutant club Gyeongnam FC. However, as had happened in 2005, the club's performance improved for the second stage, with six wins, four losses and three draws. This saw the club place 7th overall in the league. The club placed 13th in Samsung Hauzen Cup and again reached the quarterfinals of the 2006 edition of the FA Cup. However, they lost (again) to the Jeonnam Dragons.

Following completion of the 2006 season, Park Jong-Hwan stepped down as manager after four years with the club. On 1 December 2006, Byun Byung-Joo was appointed manager. A former representative player for the Republic of Korea, Byun had no previous K League management experience prior to his appointment as Daegu FC's manager. The K League revamped its format for 2007, with the season now simply consisting of a conventional league, with the top six teams qualifying to the championship phase. This didn't help Daegu much, and after their mid-table finishes of the previous two seasons, their performance slipped, and the club placed 12th, winning six games. The club failed to get out of the group stage in the 2007 Samsung Hauzen Cup and achieved a similar level of performance in the FA Cup, where Daegu lost to Incheon United in the round of 16.

In 2008, Daegu became famous with their extremely aggressive football, becoming the joint equal top-scoring team of the K League, alongside Suwon. However, they also conceded the most goals in the league. Nonetheless, because of their offensive approach, their style of play was nicknamed "Bullet Football", for its speedy and attacking focus. A 11th place in the K League standings was the eventual outcome, winning a reasonably impressive eight games, but drawing only two, both against Daejeon Citizen. For the first time in its history, Daegu reached the semi-finals of the Korean FA Cup, by defeating Ulsan in the quarterfinals, following a win in the round of 16 over Ansan Hallelujah. However, they then lost to their opponents Pohang Steelers in a 2-nil loss. The club placed 5th (out of 6) in their group in the Samsung Hauzen Cup.

The 2009 season would transpire to be one of the worst, if not the worst, in the club's history. In a now expanded league of 15 clubs, thanks to new entrant Gangwon FC, Daegu would place 15th, dead last, winning only five games. In the FA Cup, Daegu made it to the quarterfinals, beating Gyeongnam FC in a penalty shootout in the round of 16. In the quarterfinal itself, against Daejeon Citizen, the game finished with a 1–1 scoreline. For the second consecutive match, the result would come down to a penalty shootout. This time, Daegu lost out. In the league cup, now known as the Peace Cup Korea 2009, the club finished third in their group, one point away from qualifying for the knockout phase of the cup. Late in the year, Lee Young-jin was appointed as manager for the 2010 season. Lee, who has previously coached FC Seoul, replaced Byun who had resigned after being embroiled in a scandal involving a player's agent and payoffs for selecting specific players.

On field, Daegu repeated their dismal performances of the previous season, finishing 15th in the K League standings, equal with Gwangju Sangmu on points. The defensive effort was dire, and Daegu conceded the most goals of any club in the league, losing 19 games out of 28 games, with five wins and four draws. Daegu fared little better in the FA Cup, losing 0:1 to National League side Suwon City in extra time. Better results were achieved in the League Cup, with Daegu progressing out of their group to the knockout stage, thanks to wins over Daejeon and Busan. Unfortunately, they drew FC Seoul in their first knockout match. Although holding their more fancied opponents to a 2:2 draw after extra time was completed, Daegu lost out in the penalty shootout.