Pohang Steelers are a South Korean football club based in Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do. They were originally called POSCO, after the Pohang Iron and Steel Company that owned it. The club was founded in 1973 and is one of Korean football’s most successful sides.
They are the most successful team in Asia with three AFC Champions League titles.
Originally an amateur club, the club turned professional for the 1984 season and changed its name to POSCO Dolphins. A further name changed occurred for the 1985 season, during which they were called the POSCO Atoms. 1986 saw them win their first Championship, and they enjoyed a great spell of domination in the league; between 1985 and 1998 they were continuously in the top four of the K-League.
The club achieved a Korean football ‘first’ at the end of 1990 with the opening of their purpose-built 20,000 seater Steelyard Stadium, still the only football-specific stadium constructed by a Korean football club.
1995 saw yet another name change, when the club became the Pohang Atoms. This name change was an attempt to further strengthen local ties with the region, and in 1997 they adopted their current name, the Pohang Steelers. The side scaled Asian football heights, winning the Asian Champions Cup in 1997 and 1998 to establish themselves as one of Asia’s top teams.
Unfortunately, the club suffered something of a fall from grace in the 2000s, struggling near the foot of the table, but bounced back to the forefront of Korean football by winning the first stage of the 2004 K-League championship. The club qualified for the final Championship match of the 2004 season, but lost 4–3 on penalties to Suwon Samsung Bluewings.
In 2007, the club won the championship playoff by beating Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, who finished in 1st place in the regular season of the K-League. Pohang won the first leg playoff game at home 3–1, and then traveled to Seongnam for the second leg game, recording a 1–0 victory to seal a 4–1 aggregate triumph. The Steelers had ended the K-League season in 5th place, but then defeated Daejeon Citizen, Gyeongnam FC, Suwon Samsung Bluewings and finally Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in the playoffs to win the championship.
Pohang again made the playoffs in the 2008 season by finishing the regular season 5th in the league, but were knocked out in their playoff game by Ulsan Hyundai FC in a penalty shoot-out. However, the club fared much better in the Korean FA Cup. After defeating Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma in the quarter final with a penalty shoot-out following a one-all draw after regular and extra time, Pohang knocked out Daegu FC in the semi-final, and then Gyeongnam FC in the final to ensure qualification for the AFC Champions League by virtue of winning the 2008 Korean FA Cup.
The Steelers then enjoyed a dream run in the Champions League, which saw the club defeat Umm-Salal of Qatar 2–1 (4–1 agg.) to advance to their first ever AFC Champions League final. In the 2009 AFC Champions League Final, the Steelers defeated Saudi club Al-Ittihad 2–1 to claim the title.
For the 2009 K-League season, Pohang once again qualified for the playoff phase of the league by finishing up the regular season in 2nd place, equal with FC Seoul on points, but ahead on goal difference. The Steelers had a bye to the semi-finals, but lost to Seongnam Ilwha Chunma. Nonetheless, their regular season placing saw them qualify for the 2010 AFC Champions League Group stage.
Following the conclusion of the 2009 K-League season, at the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup in December, the Steelers finished in third place after defeating Atlante F.C. 4–3 on penalties.