www.groovekorea.com / June 2014 80 S eoul League began humbly six years ago with lov- ers of Ultimate Frisbee gathering to throw the disc on patches of grass in the capital. Since then, it has gained momentum, building to the point where Korea now boasts two rec leagues. However, the original league’s survival is now being threatened by a growing conflict over space, dust and a pile of crap (literally). The players are ready, all cleated up with discs in hand, but they have no field to call home. Things started heating up in fall 2012, when the league began getting complaints from park-goers at their usual grass field near Ichon, central Seoul, about the amount of space they were taking up, the dust they were kicking up and the wear and tear on the field. “On particularly busy days, when there were many people try- ing to play or spend time at the park, families and visitors would complain about us using up such a large portion of space,” says league coordinator Allison Walford, who is known as “Wally” in the Ultimate world. She is also vice president of the Korean Ul- timate Players Association — the organizing body for the sport in Korea — and the country’s representative in the World Flying Disc Federation. Walford says the space problem stems in part from a lack of awareness about the sport. “In spite of the running patterns, field type and shoe type being very similar between soccer and Ultimate, many soccer facilities that don’t know what Ultimate is will not even consider renting to our organization,” Walford says. Ultimate Frisbee is a hybrid sport mixing the running and en- durance of soccer, the defensive positioning and jumping of basketball and the throwing and catching of the disc reminis- cent of a quarterback throwing to a wide receiver in American football. The object of the game is to complete passes to your teammates, working the disc the length of the field into the end zone for a score. Once a player catches the disc, he or she must slow their momentum to a full stop before passing it to a teammate. There are no referees, which puts the power of of- ficiating solely into the hands of the players and creates a level of honest competition that is rarely compromised. The sport is played on all continents of the globe sans Antarctica. It is even up for consideration as an Olympic sport. Seoul League has six to eight teams per season with about 15 to a team, making it a popular pastime for many expats and Koreans in the city. Although the league took steps to reseed the public space in Ichon to get the grass growing again and reduce the dust, things came to a head last spring when the authorities were called. The league tried to negotiate with park maintenance of- ficials, but Walford says the officials are often unwilling to com- promise with recreational athletes and that their decisions seem to be based more on the day and number of complaints than a standard policy about space rental. “More than feeling disappointed or disheartened by the situa- tion, I feel really frustrated,” Walford says. “It’s frustrating how public and private parks thwart sports, not just Ultimate, but all ball sports in their spaces, and put frivolous restrictions upon Edited by Jenny Na (jenny@groovekorea.com) COMMuNITy KICKING up DIRT Story by brant hylinski / Photos by Noah markus With no home turf, Seoul League struggles to survive