Dear Tavern readers,
It’s been quite a while since I’ve written for the Tavern – I think my last article was in and about the 2018 World Cup, and then I might have posted a couple times afterwards. In any case, if you’re not a fan of long-winded goodbyes, then you can probably do something else with your life – if not, keep scrolling.
I first joined the Tavern back in 2014. I had been lurking for some time and, because I was not a normal kid, I really wanted to write for the Tavern. I commented on every article, subscribed to the Tavern’s email list, and even made this site my homepage at some point. Up until then, my knowledge of Korean football was reduced to checking where we were in the FIFA Rankings in the middle school computer lab and watching YouTube highlights after each friendly. And yes, I said kid, and yes, I said middle school – I was literally 14. 14!
Accepting, however, that I most certainly wasn’t of the same caliber as Jinseok’s wealth of youth knowledge, Jae’s insightful tactical commentary and Roy’s outstanding story-crafting and narrative-building, I set out to write my own blog, and linked it into my BigSoccer Korea forum account. Then, somehow, the one and only Roy Ghim stumbled onto one of my posts, shot me a DM and asked me to lend a hand. It was an amazing day.
Since then, I have written about 300+ posts and left countless more comments. I can’t say every post has been amazing, nor can I say that I always knew 100% what I was talking about. In a sense, from the World Cup of 2014 to the World Cup of 2018, you can chart my growth on this site both as a soccer fanatic and as a kid. I started off, awkward and confused, lost and unsure. I am now awkward and confused, still lost and unsure, but maybe a little less so than when I first started. And I guess that’s a win.
Throughout my years on the Tavern, I’ve always tried to bring new innovations and a new perspective. Allow this to be my humble legacy paragraph: I designed the new website format, bringing us from blog to semi-blog, semi-website; I tried to integrate statistics/analytics pieces, not always to great success, but always with great effort; I tried to follow in the footsteps of Jae with tactics posts, but the replica can never really beat the original; I worked on a lot of behind-the-scenes SEO/website stuff, getting us more views; I ran podcasts for a while, and got us on iTunes; Jinseok and I had a brief period where we commentated K-League games and highlights – I’d stay up ’till 5am – man, what a time; branching out to other sights, and trying to be the “playmaker” of sorts to get more eyeballs on our hard work; and other housekeeping and internal things.
In a sense, I feel a bit of guilt that I can’t list taking on the Tavern full-time as the owner as one of my achievements – there was a transition plan in place for a while, but then, as it does, life got in the way. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I’m now 19, going into my second year of university, and I think I’ve found my voice, my place and what fulfills me. I’m lucky enough to have a job that a love, in a city that I love, working in a field that I love, and to have friends with common interests and passions whom I feel so thankful to spend time with. I envision these next four years – this next World Cup cycle – to be filled with activism, especially for social justice and action on climate change (you know I’m an SJW lmao), work with my student union to challenge governments who are making university more inaccessible or unaffordable for students, and – a newfound passion of mine – slam poetry. I’ve been fortunate enough to qualify for Canada’s National Finals, which I’ll attend later this year. In essence, I’m a liberal leftie that has finally found my calling. And, in essence, though this sounds cynical – I no longer “need” the Tavern anymore.
I use the word “need” because in this last World Cup cycle, I “needed” it. Going home to bang out a post, watching the big game and filing player ratings and feeling a sense of community on Twitter was what I needed. For years, I have been, on a personal basis, quiet, disconnected and longing for something to belong to. This community was it – even if it was virtual, even if it was all for a game, this community kept me going. And I’m sorry I can’t keep it going when it needs help.
To that end, one thing that has never escaped me is the fragility of what we do. Because (up until very recently) none of us were getting paid for our writing, everything depended on energy and free time. I suppose it’s only natural that as I began to play a greater role, Roy, Jae, and eventually Jinseok scaled back their involvement. They have given to this community and to this website so much more than what could have been expected of them. I owe them all a beer (but in Canada, still not legal in the US!) when we finally meet one day.
That’s the segway into the cheesy, bigger thank you’s:
To Mr. Roy, the OG Tavern Grandmaster, Legend and Eternal Owner – thank you, thank you, thank you. I know this project has grown even bigger than you ever would have expected it, and that’s because what you have built is more than just thoughts on Korean soccer/football – it’s a community, and it is larger than one person or even one group of writers. Tavern peeps – Roy is just such a fucking cool guy. There’s no other way to say it. I remember talking to Jinseok once and we both agreed that Roy must be such a cool dad, and if I ever get to be a dad one day I want to be like Roy lol. In all seriousness, you took a chance on me, and it’s helped me become who I am today (such cliché!). For that, I am in your debt – and best of luck with the amazing projects that you’ve been working on.
To Jinseok – what a time. Those long hours editing Match of the Day videos were probably, in hindsight, a bit of a timesink, but were, in the moment, totally worth it. The energy, determination and borderline obsession we have had for this project has been amazing to share. It’s been really cool having another “young person” around (though I’m like 5 years younger or even more than that!) and getting to know you from online. I can’t even fathom how you balanced getting into med school and writing as much as you did – respect!!
To Jae, though I know he’s left the site for some time now – you’ve probably had the most impact the actual direction I’ve tried to take my writing, and always given me something higher to aim for. My mind was positively blown the first time I got a compliment from THE tactical mastermind Jae, haha. In all honesty, when I first “got to know” Jae through Twitter and Google Hangouts and stuff, I was a little scared at how little I knew about Korean football in comparison! Luckily, Jae’s actually a really nice guy, and I have learnt so much from him and developed a passion for understanding and watching the game from a different perspective. Gamsahapnida.
To Michael, Kevin, Namu: best of luck. This project can be the most fulfilling thing you do for ages. I admire you guys continuing in whatever capacities you can and I really, truly hope that other great writers and contributors will put their names forward to a build a new generation of the Tavern. It’s been great getting to know you all.
To the other writers I’ve had a chance to work with, and to the other writers who’ve taken a chance on me, including the good folks at K-League United, Sandals for Goalposts (shoutout especially to Tomas Danicek), Steve Han, and many others – no matter what you write about, or how often you write, what unites us all is our love for the beautiful game and our passion for the projects we have built. I’ve been lucky to learn from your wisdom, knowledge and friendship over these years. Hit me up if ever you’re in and around Ottawa or Quebec!
And finally, to all of you, you Tavern readers who’ve stuck around for years and read this to the very end: a million times thank you. Thanks for the comments, the tweets and retweets, the conversations and, yes, even the critiques. Without you, there would be no Tavern. Please continue to give our other writers the same love (sometimes tough love) you gave to me; interacting and knowing that people out there care what you have to say and read what you have written keeps us going.
For those curious enough about my personal life and goings-on, my Twitter (@korfan12) will slowly be repurposed to more of a me-and-my-life feed than a soccer feed. If you think we’ve grown really close over time, you can try to friend me on Facebook haha. I’m Timothy Gulliver on there – Tim Lee is a mere pseudonym!
This might not be goodbye forever. Nothing is forever, not even goodbyes, and as I watched our U20 squad sink Argentina I felt a twinge of regret that I had not done my research on the team or written a preview. Who knows – maybe I’ll lurk, write a post every now and then, leave a few comments, or even have time to commit as much as I used to. Still, I think it’s a sign of growing up to know when to let things go and when to realize that you simply don’t have the time or the energy to give what you want to give.
And I’d like to think that I’m growing up. Or at least, I’m trying. So for now, thank you, Tavern, for helping me find my way, for giving me something to do, and for helping me reconnect with my Korean roots in a way like none other. This confused Korean-Canadian thanks you. It’s been a blast. Gamsahapnida. For real. And Jalgaseyo.