BUSAN, South Korea — With an active membership exceeding 50 players, Laochra Busan is fast becoming a recognizable force within the tapestry of the Busan expat scene. On both an individual and on a community level, this is evidenced by the “Laochra Effect”, which actually causes some earnest players to stay in on a Friday night so as to be fresh for training sessions in Sassang on Saturday mornings.
Other players from the both the men's and women’s team who do go out the night before training seem to modify their drinking habits; statements such as “Take it easy on the beer” and “No, I can’t do that second tequila shot!” have been reportedly overheard on Friday nights around Busan. Egad!
As well as the main Saturday training sessions, on Tuesday nights many of the players brave the elements to put themselves through grueling fitness sessions under the command of the uncompromising Peter Bonner. The motivation, the inspired and dogged perseverance of the players to train despite the rainy season and their already jam-packed lives, is the Korean Gaelic League (KGL). A welcome phenomena.
The Charity Effect
As Laochra Busan GAA club has grown and matured this past year, perhaps it was inevitable that the sports club would develop a social conscience. The fair port city of Busan has indeed been kind to the club, as has South Korea in general. The Land of the Morning Calm has provided a unique platform on which the expat Gaelic football scene has flourished. Therefore it is only natural that the Laochra Gaelic Football Club would want to give something back.
The chairman of the club, Shane Clifford, was instrumental in initiating a volunteer program in partnership with Busan Volunteer that facilitates monthly visits by the Laochra players to two local orphanages.
Clifford is confident that this “stable and consistent link between the orphanages and Laochra GAA will last for years into the future, even after the current players have moved on.”
The volunteering at the orphanage is worthwhile for all involved. The children benefit by seeing familiar faces visiting every month donning the easily recognizable red Laochra t-shirt. Joanna O’Brien of the Laochra Fundraising Committee feels that as the players visit the orphanages more and more, the children there become increasingly more comfortable with their presence and benefit from the visits. The children being able to identify the volunteers as all being part of the GAA club is a key aspect of the initiative. O’Brien made the observation that “the kids will continue to see, maybe not the same faces but at least the same organization.”
In light of the often disjointed nature of volunteer work, this thread of continuity is vital and it is something valuable that Laochra GAA as an organization is in a position to provide to local orphanages.
As well as the practical side of visiting the orphanages, the Laochra Fundraising committee decided to organize a fundraising event to raise money that would go directly to the orphanages. O’Brien realized that “as an organized group, who all came together to pursue a common interest, we had a lot of power and we felt that with all of our members, both new and old, we could organize a successful event both in terms of raising awareness and a monetary contribution.”
This provided the spur to organize the Beach Party Acoustic Night at the Wolfhound in Haeundae on July 7. The night was a great success thanks to the hard work of the Laochra Fundraising committee, which raised 1.2 million won for local orphanages.
Laochra Busan GAA is very grateful to all the amazing singers who volunteered to entertain, and a special mention goes to Michael Herron and Katie Dutton who showed us all that they are not only great gaelic footballers but also brilliant singers. The Dammit Janets had the crowd going wild!
Laochra Busan would also like to thank all the generous businesses who volunteered raffle prizes and the club is very grateful and appreciative to their generous sponsor the Wolfhound for providing the venue and a lot of assistance in ensuring the event was a success.
Lastly, in this article-turned-open letter, we would like to thank the mysterious “Laochra Effect”. Whatever it is, it’s certainly working wonders.
If you would like to witness the Laochra Effect (and some great sport besides) there will be a game this Saturday, July 21 at Elsukdo Island in Hadan, setting for the third round of the KGL.
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Photos by Dominic Marciniec and Curtis Wiebe.