In a community where people are constantly coming and going, where businesses change almost overnight, and the entire city doesn’t stop building and growing, it can be hard to feel a sense of consistency. But there are a few things you can count on besides change. The Won Shot Wanderers Football Club has been a stable part of the Ulsan ex-pat community now for over a decade – quite a feat in a city where ex-pats rarely stay for more than a year.
Started in the wake of the 2002 World Cup, the Won Shots have become one of the longest running expat teams in Korea. John Buckley, from Ireland, and Gareth Copely, from England, were two of the original team members whose passion for the sport kept the team going in the early years. Philip Heo, who joined the team in 2003, is another member who has helped ensure its long term survival. I recently interviewed Philip (over email, due to my making a mistake and missing the interview, for which I deeply apologize to the whole team) about the Won Shots, and particularly their upcoming Ulsan Cup Tournament, being held at the Taehwa Simnidaebat Pitches in Taehwadong this weekend (May 17th-18th).
The first Ulsan Cup was held in November 2008, following the Won Shots joining the Ulsan Amateur Football League in 2006. With the help of the Ulsan League commissioners, and support from Benchwarmers Bar owners, Troy McDonald and Hazel Smith, the dreams of expat football players to have a proper nationwide tournament were turned into a reality. Keeping things running long-term in the expat community can be a challenge, but Philip’s attitude towards the Cup is a key factor in it’s longevity, “Trivial things always happen during the organization of any major sporting event, but if we focus on the football tournament itself, satisfying participants, the event is always a success. Some other cities or organizations with much bigger budgets than us hosted tournaments for expats, but they didn’t last long.”
“This is the only chance for foreigners to simulate the style of play from their home countries. It gives us that familiarity and comfort that we don’t often experience, and with the great organisation of the Ulsan Cup, the many foreigner teams, etc, it gives us that big tournament feel. All the ingredients come together to make it so enjoyable and important to all who are involved,” said Dan Shaw, the Won Shot Wanderers Captain for 2012-2013.
The Ulsan Cup has been well received in the past.
“We have enjoyed critical acclaim from across the Republic of Korea, and we are now even being courted by national media to cover the event,” explains Philip. “There are of course things that we try to improve upon every year, and even the best events could be better, but to hear most teams say it’s some of the best memories they make in Korea makes everyone associated with the Cup smile. It is such an important date in the sporting calendar that players who have left to live in other countries fly back to Korea to play in the Ulsan Cup.”
This year, 16 teams from 11 different provinces or cities around Korea are participating, including 2 teams from Ulsan, the Won Shot Wanderers and the Foreigner’s Compound Football Club (FCFC). The full list of teams is as follows:
Ulsan – Wonshot Wanderers & FCFC
Busan – Busan United & Inter Busan
Deagu – Deagu Devils & FC Deagu
Seoul – SBFC, Seoul St Pat’s, and Storndang Villa
Suwon – Inter Suwon
Jeju – Jejuventus
Daejon – Galma FC
Gwangyang and Suncheon – Gwangsun International
Seoul Gyeonggi- Malaysian Students FC
Jeonju Jeolla- Jeonju United
Gwangju – Gwangju Inter
The Won Shots themselves are a diverse team. “We have and have had members from over forty different nations and diverse religious backgrounds. We currently have players from the UK, Ireland, USA, Wales, Scotland, France, Canada, South Africa, Italy, Turkey, Norway and Korea. They are English teachers, engineers, students, employees or businessmen. Several are married to Koreans or now call Korea home.”
They’re also doing very well these days, “We currently have a very good team and right now we rank 1st in the first division of the Ulsan League, having won the 2nd division title last year.”
When asked about special memories from past Cups, Philip said, “Every Cup has had special moments. The first cup was a massive hurdle, as we were swimming in untested waters, however, the highlight has to be the Won Shot Wanderers winning the trophy for the first time in 2012. Keeping the trophy in Ulsan was never going to be easy, but finally we did it, and we have a serious chance of defending it this year.”
Defending the cup may not be quite so easy, though. Philip added, “No team has ever won the championship twice, let alone defended the title.” Past winners are: Busan United in 2008, Seoul Celtic in 2009, Jeonju Unathletic in 2010, Daegu Devils in 2011, and Ulsan Won Shot Wanderers in 2012.
If you’re looking to get involved, “Anybody can be a Won Shot player or supporter. Members join and leave expat teams frequently, so we welcome new faces anytime. Join the Facebook group, and come to Samsan Futsal pitch from 8-10pm Tuesdays, or the Taehwa Simnidaebat pitch C from 9-11am Thursdays for training. You don’t have to be one of the best players to be a member of our club; we win together and we lose together. There is always room for good people, as there is always so much to do. We also have youth teams of Rising Stars hosting a tournament for junior expats.”
So, if you’re in town this weekend, Philip says, “Come and enjoy the tournament. It is a really family friendly atmosphere, and food and drinks will be provided by Cima Bar.”
The Ulsan Cup takes place from 9-5 this Friday and Saturday at the Taehwa Simnidaebat pitches (Riverside 800 Taehwa-dong, Jung-gu, Ulsan – pinned on the Interactive Map, under Sports). The pitches are along the north bank of the river, between “Bulgogi Street” and the cycling/walking path.
The schedule for the Friday Preliminaries is listed below. Saturdays schedule will, of course, depend upon who wins what. However, a full 2 days of games are promised to everyone, as there will be a “Plate Challenge” and a “Wooden Spoon” phase for the teams knocked out of the running for the Cup.
Schedule for Friday’s Preliminaries
Pitch A: Galma FC vs. Malaysian SFC
Pitch B: FCFC vs. Busan United
Pitch C: Won Shot WFC vs. Inter Busan
Pitch A: Inter Suwon vs. FC Daegu
Pitch B: Storndang Villa vs. GwangSun IFC
Pitch C: Seoul St. Patrick’s vs.Jeonju United
Pitch A: Seoul British vs. Gwangju Inter
Pitch B: Malaysian SFC vs. Jejuventus
Pitch C: Galma FC vs. Daegu Devils
12:00 Welcoming Ceremony
Pitch A: FC Daegu vs. GwangSun IFC
Pitch B: Daegu Devils vs. Jejuventus
Pitch C: Inter Suwon vs. Storndang Villa
Pitch A: Gwangju Inter vs. FCFC
Pitch B: Inter Busan vs. Jeonju United
Pitch C: Busan United vs. Seoul British
Pitch A: Won Shot WFC vs. Seoul St. Patrick’s
Pitch B: GwangSun IFC vs. Inter Suwon
Pitch C: Jejuventus vs. Galma FC
Pitch A: Gwangju Inter vs. Busan Unite
Pitch B: Seoul British vs. FCFC
Pitch C: FC Daegu vs. Storndang Villa
Pitch A: Inter Busan vs. Seoul St. Patrick’s
Pitch B: Jeonju United vs. Won Shot WFC
Pitch C: Daegu Devils vs. Malaysian SFC
UlsanOnline.com would like to wish the Ulsan teams, FCFC and the defending champion Won Shot Wanderers, good luck in the tournament. Here’s hoping the Cup stays in Ulsan!