Mountain over mountain. This time, sparks flew on the ‘Sangam Grass’.
The K-pop concert, which will be the grand finale of the 2023 Saemangeum World Scout Jamboree, was initially scheduled to be held at the Saemangeum Outdoor Special Stage on the 6th. However, due to the heat wave and safety concerns, it was changed to be held on the 11th at Jeonju World Cup Stadium. Teams preparing for the FA Cup match between Jeonbuk and Incheon on the 9th and the K League 1 home match between Jeonbuk and Suwon on the 12th were hit hard. Jeonbuk, in particular, was forced out of its home stadium. Jeonbuk fans reacted angrily, saying, “Even if BTS comes, we can’t give up our home games. The government and local governments took up the cause.
There was a change. Typhoon No. 6, Kanun, is heading north toward the Korean Peninsula. On the eve of the closing ceremony (안전놀이터Nov. 11), the venue for the K-pop concert was moved from Jeonju to Seoul, the capital city, and the venue was finally changed to the Seoul World Cup Stadium. On the morning of the 8th, all 36,000 chamber participants left for Seoul and other metropolitan areas. Jeonju World Cup Stadium went from ‘unavailable’ to ‘available’ within a day. However, the KFA, which had announced the postponement of the FA Cup the day before on the 7th, confirmed the postponement on the 8th, citing the typhoon.
The problems don’t end there. Suddenly, a K-pop concert was scheduled for Sangam, causing problems for FC Seoul, which calls Seoul World Cup Stadium home, and the Seoul Facilities Management Corporation, which manages the stadium. The corporation reportedly asked the organizers to consider ways to minimize damage to the grass, citing the example of a religious event that used only variable seats and bleachers without stepping on the grass. However, based on the progress of the event so far, it seems that spectator seating will be installed on the grass like a normal concert. At an event where tens of thousands of people will attend, it seems inevitable that the grass will be damaged no matter how careful they are.
The Sangam turf has been well received through the Coupang Play series. After playing a friendly against Atletico Madrid at the Seoul World Cup Stadium on July 30, City said, “It rained so much (on the day of the match) that you could call it a flood. But within 40 minutes, everything was normalized. We have an amazing drainage system. Last year’s game against Bayern Munich at Lamdo Field in the United States was canceled due to heavy rain, but that didn’t happen in Seoul.” The Seoul World Cup Stadium underwent four months of construction from October 2021 to February 2022 to transform it into a hybrid turf. Hybrid turf is a blend of 95% natural grass and 5% artificial turf, which reduces grass pitting (divots). Sangam’s hybrid turf has been well received by players and officials at national team A-match friendlies.
In the end, it is the K League and soccer fans who suffer when such turf is damaged. Some may argue that ‘it’s just a soccer field grass’ and claim it’s a good cause. On the other hand, it is more important for someone to showcase great soccer to soccer fans on good turf than the success of the jamboree. Luckily for Seoul, they have an away game against Daejeon Hana on the 13th. Seoul could have easily been kicked out of the tournament.