Daejeon Hana Citizen

대전 하나 시티즌 / Daejeon Hana Citizen

Honours

  • Best League Finish: 6th in K League 1 (2003 & 2007)
  • Best Korean FA Cup Result: Winners (2001)
  • K League 2
    • Winners: 2014
  • Korean FA Cup
    • Winners: 2001
  • K League Cup
    • Runners-Up: 2004
  • Korean Super Cup
    • Runners-Up: 2002

Daejeon Hana Citizen / 대전 하나 시티즌 is a South Korean football club who are based in the Korean Republic’s fifth-largest city of Daejeon (with a population of approximately 1,5 million), which is located roughly in the centre of the East Asian country. For the 2022 season, Daejeon compete in the K League 2, the second-tier of the Korean football pyramid, where they have been since 2016. They currently play at the 40,535-capacity Daejeon World Cup Stadium, one of the stadiums that were built for the 2002 World Cup, and famously hosted the controversial Round of 16 match between South Korea and Italy in which the co-hosts famously won the game 2-1.

The football club was founded in 1997 as Daejeon Citizen and can be considered a trailblazing club in Korean football by becoming the first “community/citizen club” by not being owned by any of the large and dominating chaebol companies, such as Hyundai, Samsung, LG, etc. Despite not possessing the large budgets of other teams in the league, the club achieved moderate success in the K League, finishing as high as sixth position in both the 2003 and 2007 seasons. However, the club’s highest point in its history was its 2001 Korean FA Cup victory, in just its fifth season as a professional club. In the final, they overcame Pohang Steelers by a single goal from Kim Eun-jung to become the cup winners for the first (and only) time.

The Purples (achieving the nickname due to the original colour of their shirts) stayed in the K League 1 for 17 consecutive seasons before enduring their first relegation in 2013 to the K League 2 when they finished bottom of the K1 table. An instant promotion followed as Daejeon clinched the 2014 K2 title, but they encountered their second relegation in three years by finishing bottom of the K1 table again in the 2015 season. Since that second relegation, the club has competed in the K2 with 2022 being their seventh consecutive year in the Korean second tier.

It looked as if the club would continue to languish in the second tier, but in 2019 a radical change in the club’s fortune and ownership occurred when Daejeon was purchased by the Hana Financial Group, which potentially would plough money into the club from one of Korea’s largest banking corporations (and sponsors of the K League). As a result of its new ownership, the club’s name was amended to include “Hana” in its current name, and the club’s main colours changed from the traditional purple/maroon to Hana Bank’s main colour of Persian green – something which has not gone well with the supporters. In addition, an increase in its financial budgets have not seemed to have improved Daejeon’s position within the football pyramid. Despite finishing in fourth and third positions during the 2020 and 2021 seasons respectively, they agonisingly failed to progress via the promotion playoffs on both occasions. At the time of writing, it looks as if the club will encounter their third season of potential ‘playoff hell’ as they will finish in the promotion playoffs once again after Gwangju FC won the 2022 K2 title. Perhaps this year, it will be a case of “third time lucky” for the club from the central region of Hoseo…

To talk about one of the clubs who are aiming to gain promotion from the K League 2 this season, we spoke to the excellent Paul Neat. Paul is the Sports Editor for Arirang News, the Managing Editor of the K League’s English output, an English language live football commentator on K League games, as well as the Associate Editor and regular podcast host or contributor for K League United and its weekly podcast. Quite frankly, he’s a very busy individual! He is also a supporter of English Championship side Preston North End, as well as Daejeon Hana Citizen. To find his social media accounts, and those of K League United, follow the links below:

Q. Who would you say is Daejeon Hana Citizen’s best player, and coach/manager of all time, and the reasonings behind the choices?

Kim Eun-jung

Daejeon’s best player would probably have to be Kim Eun-jung, a striker who is still the club’s record goal scorer. He scored the winning goal in the 2001 Korean FA Cup Final, earning the club their first piece of major silverware and is seen as a genuine hero. Fans still buy shirts with his name on the back now. He had two spells with the club as he came back in 2014 as a player/coach meaning that, with the K League Challenge (now K League 2) title win, he has been present for both of Daejeon’s only two trophy wins. The club retired the No. 18 shirt for 18 years in honour of Kim. If building statues of players was the done thing in Korea, he’d be Daejeon’s first player statue. He’s also a very nice bloke. I interviewed him last year and he was very friendly and helpful.

Cho Jin-ho

Naming the best manager is a little more difficult because the club hasn’t had many managers that have stayed for that long. Lee Tae-ho was at the helm when Daejeon won the FA Cup in 2001 but the Purples finished bottom of the league that season. I’d have to say the late Cho Jin-ho is their best manager of all time. He very nearly saved Daejeon from relegation in 2013 and then guided the team back to K League 1 at the first time of asking the following season, winning the league at a canter. No one has been able to do that since which just shows how good of a job he did.

Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ for the club in both the past and present squads?

Bruno Baio

Cult heroes in the K League are something that I’ve thought about a lot and for Daejeon, Bruno Baio is perhaps the one that springs to mind the most. On his day, he could be prime Dejan [Damjanović], on others his second touch would be a tackle. A true cult hero, for me, among other things, is someone who can be a game changer on their day but for others can leave fans scratching their heads. That, or they have an interesting personality. Bruno ticks all those boxes. What he did against FC Anyang in the playoffs in 2021 [Daejeon won 3-1] will live long in the memory. He doubled his tally for the season with that brace, and if you had only ever seen him play that afternoon, you could have told someone he was the top scorer and they’d have believed you.

Lim Dug-keun

Among the current squad, I’d say 22-year-old midfielder Lim Dug-keun. He looks quite awkward when he runs, he has quite stiff shoulders, and looks more like a midfield workhorse and someone who might lack a bit of confidence. But he can, on occasion, be the ‘geek’ who dances with the pretty girl at the party. He has shown some flashes of genuine skill including one occasion where he scored two and turned into Lionel Messi to dance past a few players and score. If he stays with the club I think he is on course to become a cult hero.

Q. Of the current squad, who would you say is the best player at Daejeon and why?

This current Daejeon squad is probably one of the best ever, certainly the best since I’ve been watching them so it’s hard to choose just one player. But I really like 26-year-old midfielder Lee Hyun-sik. He has great vision, is very tidy on the ball, can shoot, pass, can do everything really. Daejeon looks much more fluid when he’s in the team and I’m really surprised he isn’t at Jeonbuk Motors. There’s talk that he might be going to Gimcheon Sangmu [the professional football team of the South Korean armed forces] soon for his compulsory military service which would be a shame, but if Daejeon wins promotion then they have to do all they can to keep hold of him.

Q. Are there any players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent at the club?

Byun Jun-su

I really like the look of 20-year-old centre-back Byun Jun-su. He does the simple things very well and has proven to be reliable when called upon this season. There’s also the 23-year-old winger/forward Shin Sang-eun who broke into the first team last year. This season he’s had to make do with a place in the B team in K4 but has grabbed the odd goal and assist for the first time and looks like a real prospect. He’s still very raw but has the physical attributes to go far in the game. Then there are the two Baes who have played for the Korea U20 team, Bae Jun-ho [19-year-old midfielder] and Bae Seo-jun [18-year-old defender]. Keep an eye on these two players, Bae Jun-ho in particular.

Q. Who would you regard as Daejeon Hana Citizen’s biggest or historical rivals?

Historically, Daejeon’s biggest rivals are Suwon Bluewings. The ‘derby’, if it can be called that, is the ‘Football City Derby’. Daejeon is known as the ‘Special Football City’ in part because the team was made specifically because when K League was decentralized, and games were played in the city, attendances were good. Suwon is known as Korea’s ‘Football Capital City’ but the teams haven’t met in the league since 2015. There’s a budding derby with Chungnam Asan as the fixture always seems to produce goals, and Daejeon seem to be creating a bit of a rivalry with FC Anyang, but Suwon Bluewings are, historically, the club’s biggest rivals.

Q. How would you describe the current performance or state of the club? How do you think this season has gone?

It’s getting better, I think, but still below what’s expected for a team with a budget like Daejeon’s. This season has gone okay but ultimately it’ll all be for nothing unless they win promotion to K1. It’s fairly well known that Daejeon have a big budget, some say it’s on par with Jeonbuk’s, and so to have waved goodbye to any chance of automatic promotion for the third year in a row is obviously short of what’s expected.

The 2022 Daejeon home shirt.

The club still has a lot of work to do off the pitch too. It said it wants to be a “global football club”, playing in the AFC Champions League and known around the world but the club’s Facebook or Instagram name is not in English making it hard for potential overseas fans to find them on the respective social media platforms. A lot of clubs now release lineup graphics in English and Korean on their social media channels but Daejeon can’t be bothered to do that. It’s often hard to get interviews with the players as the club seemingly doesn’t see much value in free publicity. There was a bit of a PR disaster this year with the kit. The club mostly did away with their traditional colours and went for all green (Hana Bank’s colour) then the original design was changed so it had even less maroon, and to make matters worse, the kit was released and on sale late. Fans felt let down by this and there’s still a bit of the amateurism from the Citizen era that’s lingering.

The K League 2 table at the time of writing (2nd October 2022)
[IMAGE: Wikipedia]

Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the history of the Purples?

The 2013 Daejeon Citizen home shirt.
[IMAGE: Daejeon Hana Citizen Website]

I think my favourite shirt was the first one I bought in 2013. I don’t think any of the home shirts have been as nice as that one since. The away shirt from 2020 and 2021 was very nice too, but the 2001 Adidas shirt is stunning. If one appears for sale online then they usually go for around $150 at least.

Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of Daejeon?

Daejeon have a very good fanbase, they know their football, and it is, genuinely, a football city. The club has a great stadium and, at the moment, there’s optimism. Before the Hana Finance Group takeover there was a definite glass ceiling. Daejeon may have been contenders for promotion but beyond that, there was not much more that would’ve been realistic. But now, with the financial backing the club has, I feel as though once we win promotion, it won’t be too long before we are challenging for major honours.

The worst thing is that the team will always find a way to break your heart. There’s been a lot of low moments but the playoff heartbreak in 2020 [drawing 1-1 with Gyeongnam but exiting the playoffs after finishing lower in the table] and, in particular, 2021 [Daejeon lost 2-4 on aggregate to Gangwon after initially winning the first leg 1-0] was very hard to get over.


The second leg of the 2021 promotion/relegation playoff between Daejeon Hana Citizen and Gangwon.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of Daejeon Hana Citizen?

I hope that Daejeon becomes like Jeonbuk and are a giant of Asian football. They have the financial backing to do that, and once the team is back in the top flight, going on and winning the FA Cup and challenging for the title shouldn’t be too much of a pipedream.

A massive thank you to Paul for answering our questions on football on The Purples. Remember you can find his social media accounts, and those of K League United in the links near the top of the blogpage.

If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com, or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.

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