Seoul E-Land

서울 이랜드 FC / Seoul E-Land Football Club

Honours

  • Best League Finish: 4th in the K League 2 (2014)
  • Best Korean Cup Finish: Round of 16 (2019 and 2021)

Seoul E-Land / 서울 이랜드 is a South Korean football team currently playing in the K League 2, the second tier in the South Korean football pyramid. As their name suggests, they are based in the Korean Republic’s capital of Seoul / 서울시, the country’s biggest city with 9,5m people living within the Seoul Capital Area. Seoul E-Land currently plays their home games at the 15,511-capacity Mokdong Stadium / 목동주경기장, a multi-purpose stadium (and former home of Bucheon SK) situated in the Mok-dong district west of the city and located right beside the Anyangcheon, a southern tributary river of the main Han river that flows through Seoul. However, the Mokdong Stadium is only a temporary home for the Leopards as their traditional home is the Seoul Olympic Stadium / 서울올림픽주경기장 (also known as the Jamsil). Situated in the southeast of the city, it was constructed to host the 1986 Asian Games and the 1988 Summer Olympics, and is the centrepiece of the Seoul Sports Complex in the Songpa district, next to the confluence of the Tancheon and the Han River. Originally South Korea’s biggest stadium with a capacity of 69,950, it is currently closed for reconstruction with Seoul E-Land not scheduled to return to its spiritual home until 2025 at the earliest.

Seoul E-Land is one of the newer clubs to be established within Korean football having been founded as recently as 2014 and becoming the second team to officially represent the capital in its current state. Their unique name comes from their owners, the E-Land Group, which is a fashion, tourist, and retail conglomerate chaebol that has its headquarters based in Seoul. The club’s first season was in 2015 when they joined the K League Challenge (now the K League 2), and it is a league that they have competed in for the whole of their history. Despite the owner’s initial optimism that they would be “playing AFC Champions League football within five years“, the club has sadly failed to gain promotion from the second division as of yet.

Ironically, Seoul E-Land’s best league finish came in their debut season when they finished in fourth position in the 2015 season and qualified for the promotion playoffs, but a draw against Suwon FC ended their chances of a quick promotion as the third-placed Suwon progressed, despite the draw, because of their higher league finish. In the following season, the club just missed out on the playoffs by scoring fewer goals (the main decider when points are level between teams) than Busan I’Park who earned the converted fifth position. Alas, the fortunes of the club soon faded in the following seasons as the owner’s interest waned in the club. Seoul E-Land finished bottom of the K2 table for two consecutive seasons in 2018 and 2019, with the latter season being an especially low point in the club’s short history where they won just five games during their league campaign and finished ten points behind ninth-placed side Daejeon Citizen.

Thankfully, in recent seasons, the performances of the club have improved following the owner’s renewed interest in SEFC and they have become competitive within the K League 2 once more. The 2020 season was a vast improvement from their previous campaign and they achieved their second-best league finish of fifth position. Sadly, they missed out on the promotion playoffs once again by having scored five fewer goals than their playoff rivals, this time losing out to Daejeon Hana Citizen. The 2021 season was a return to the bad times as Seoul E-Land ended the campaign in ninth position, narrowly avoiding finishing bottom for the third time in four years by scoring eight more goals than bottom club Bucheon FC 1995. However, last season saw Seoul E-Land mount a strong challenge for a playoff berth, and despite a promising showing earlier in the season, the Leopards ultimately missed out on the playoffs by finishing eight points behind fifth-placed Gyeongnam FC to conclude the season in seventh position.

To talk about a side that has been a mainstay in the K League 2 for the whole of its history but has aspirations of making the top flight in the near future, we spoke to the excellent ‘Big’ Michael Redmond. Based in South Korea, he is a Manchester United and Seoul E-Land supporter who also produces videos of his life in Korea on his personal YouTube channel. In addition, he regularly writes articles on Seoul E-Land, and the K League 2 ‘party’ in general, for the English-language South Korean football website K League United, as well as being a regular guest on the website’s weekly podcast, where he is sometimes KLU’s “official meteorologist”. To read his articles, you can find the KLU website link, as well as his social media channels and YouTube channel at the links below:

Q. Firstly, why did you decide to start following Seoul E-Land?

My love affair with Seoul E-Land started back in 2017 when I had just moved to Seoul. Initially, I went around a few stadiums and a few games, watching FC Seoul, both Suwon clubs, and Seongnam. However, it was the Olympic Stadium and the history of the ground that perked my interest in Seoul E-Land. I went to a home game and it just felt different to what I saw with the other teams. Then a few months later the opportunity came around to write for K League United and the rest is really history.

Q. Who would you say is Seoul E-Land’s best player, and coach/manager of all time, and the reasonings behind the choices?

Choi Won-hee

There hasn’t been a long list of greats at Seoul unfortunately, as it is a relatively new club. However, a noticeable player would be [right-back and defensive midfielder] Choi Won-hee, who had a glorious five appearances for Wigan Athletic back between 2019 and 2011, and played in the debut season for Seoul back in 2015. On a personal note, Leandro [28-year-old Brazilian striker who played for E-Land between 2020 and 2021 and is currently with Daejeon Hana Citizen] is the player who brings back the most memories for me. He was a clutch player who scored when we needed him. My highlight of being a Seoul E-Land fan was when he put the ball in the back of FC Seoul’s net to win the first-ever derby between the two teams [a Round of 16 match in the 2021 Korean FA Cup where E-Land won 1-0 at the Seoul World Cup Stadium].

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

Won Ki-jong

Even though the team is still under 10 years old, it can boast a few cult heroes. From a managerial perspective, In Chang-soo [a Korean-Argentine manager who managed the club in two spells between 2016 and 2018] was well respected among Seoul fans as they believed he had the club’s best interests at heart. From a playing perspective, Won Ki-jong [27-year-old midfielder] was a firm favourite amongst fans. He broke a 14-game streak without a win back in 2019 by scoring the only goal in a 1-0 over Jeonnam Dragons. Won Ki-jong came into the club from university level to Seoul, and you can now see him ply his trade at Gyeongnam FC.

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

Lee Jae-ik

It is difficult to say as it is currently the off-season and Seoul have a trait of gutting out the whole team in the winter. If Lee Jae-ik [23-year-old defender] is still a Seoul player by the time of this publication, then he would definitely be up there. He is quick and energetic at the back and he will get a national team call-up sooner rather than later. I am also excited to see Vietnamese international Nguyễn Văn Toàn [26-year-old winger/forward who signed for E-Land in January 2023] play for the Leopards.

Q. Who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent at the club?

It has to be forward Park Jun-young. At only 19 years of age, he will be going into his second season in the pro team. Park Jun-young has been a part of the Seoul set-up since he was under 15 and has already registered goals in the K League 2. Only more to come from this youngster.

Q. Who would you regard as E-Land’s biggest or historical rivals?

Seoul E-Land are not a team to known to have rivals. Geographically you could look at FC Seoul as it’s a same-city rival. However, on a personal note, I treat every FC Anyang game as a rivalry. There always seems to be a bit of awkwardness between the staff at Anyang and the fans. I remember back in 2019 Anyang tried to advertise the city in the Seoul home end, fans protested, and it was quickly removed. They are a cute team if anyone knows what I mean by that, and I don’t mean good-looking!

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

Park Chung-kyu

Well, it is interesting at Seoul at the moment, as we are in a transition. We have had three years of Chung Jung-yong [who managed the club in the 2020, 2021, and 2022 seasons] come to an end. Some may have said it was one or two years too long. We overperformed and also truly underperformed under him. Now it is the time for Park Chung-kyu, a man who has experience managing in Vietnam [managing Hanoi FC in 2021 and 2022, as well as being the assistant manager to the Vietnamese national team during the same period] and has won four K League 1 titles and 1 AFC Champions League title as the assistant manager of Choi Kang-hee [at Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors]. 2022 was a season which saw us start well, a sour middle, and then finally a better end. We were three games away from a potential playoff spot and we dropped the ball. Here’s to hoping that change is good.

Q. Looking at the club’s history, what would you say has been the best game, result, or performance in your opinion?

Seoul’s first season in the K League will go down in history for the club. They made the first round of the playoffs in their first season, drawing 3-3 with Suwon FC. They bowed out of the playoffs due to the draw as Suwon finished above them and they allow the higher-placed team to advance. Personally, for me, it was the start of the 2021 season. Seoul went through their first five games undefeated and were sat at the top of the table for the first time in their history, then they free fell after that, however, it was nice at the time.

2015 K League Challenge Table.
[IMAGE: Wikipedia]

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

The best thing about being a fan of Seoul E-Land is that we are different. We are a small fan group so new songs and new flags are always welcome. There is no permission to be asked to make a new chant or to get involved in any of the away day activities. Seoul has given me the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and to have shared many great experiences with them, maybe something I could not have done if I was supporting a bigger team. One of the worse things is that they are the masters of giving you hope. As you know, it is ‘the hope that kills you‘. Seoul have yet to have their day in the sunlight. Yes, they won their first-ever Seoul derby, but they then went on to lose 2-0 to Gangwon in the next round of the cup. I would love to see Seoul promoted before my time in Korea comes to an end.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of Seoul E-Land?

And there is that word again, hope! Seoul fans have wanted nothing more than promotion since their inception. If they can even play a playoff game, or even a promotion-relegation game, then that will give the fans a lot of happiness. The K League 2 can be very unpredictable. I remember seeing FC Anyang finishing below Seoul in some K League 2 seasons and they were injury-time away from a penalty shootout for a spot in the 2023 K League 1. So if Seoul can get their act together and play as a team, then anything is possible. That would be something I would really hope for.

2022 K League 2 table.
[IMAGE: Wikipedia]

A massive thank you to Big Michael for answering our questions on the K League 2 side Seoul E-Land. Remember you can find his social media accounts, and articles on K League United in the links towards 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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