Professional soccer returned on Friday (besides Nicaragua and Belarus) with South Korea's K League starting its season as much of the world continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Reigning champs Jeonbuk FC beat Suwon Bluewings, 1-0, at Jeonju World Cup Stadium in a match that may give us a taste of what we could expect for the sport moving forward as bigger leagues aim to return to the field soon., while all eyes are on Serie A, La Liga and the Premier League with each hoping to get underway at some point in the next month or so.
Friday's K League opener had it all and more, coaches wearing masks, and even having fans rejoicing at the appearance of Video Assistant Referee. Here's what you need to see from the match:
There was big-time interest
How much has the world missing live soccer? Well, one stream reached 1.8 million viewers which is bonkers for a league that most people can't even name a team or player from. While it may not be the best soccer product, it's reflective of the desire to have live sports back in a way to help us feel normal again.
Message of support
There were some cool moments where you could see the fan stands of the stadium where it read "#C_U_Soon" following by the message "Stay Strong."
It's unclear when fans will be able to return to games, but just having that encouraging message was a nice touch.
The teams practiced as much caution as possible in this one, not shaking hands before the game as an extra precaution.
It sounded like there were fans ...
The stadium had recorded crowd noise playing during the game so it didn't sound like one of those U-17 World Cup qualifiers on TV with 100 fans, where you can hear the insults of the players and the noise of the ball being kicked. Overall, viewers seemed please.
This artificial crowd noise in the K League kind of works. Would need adjusting to match the football noises in each country but it’s quite comforting.— Adam Drury (@Adam_Drury1) May 8, 2020
K League playing artificial crowd noise, nicer than watching a game played in silence— Football Index Barman (@FI_Bar_Man) May 8, 2020
Celebration a tribute to frontline workers
Forty-one-year-old striker Lee Dong-gook scored the lone goal in the match and said afterward that his celebration with teammates was meant as a thank you to those fighting the COVID-19 battle. Class act.
Red card for nasty tackle
Fans got a red card thanks to this crunching tackle from Suwon's Aussie midfielder Terry Antonis:
Even VAR was a welcome sight despite its inconsistency across the world. At this point, us soccer fans will take anything.
Here are the complete match highlights where you can see Dong-gook's late header to seal the three points as soccer returned to add a little normalcy back to our lives.
You can find the complete match below: