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North and South Korea:

Cooperation and Conflicts

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South Korea beat North Korea 3-0 in friendly Sun Aug 14, 1:30 PM ET

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea beat North Korea 3-0 in a men's football friendly held as part of joint festivities marking the end of Japan's colonial rule over the Korean peninsula 60 years ago.

The South's opening goal came in the 33rd minute when midfielder Chung Kyung-Ho's low header directed Kim Do-Heon's free kick from the right center into the North's net. Two minutes later, striker Kim Jin-Yong of the South lobbed a cross from midfielder Baek Ji-Hoon to shake the North's net for the second time. In the 67th minute, striker Park Chu-Young dribbled a cross into the penalty area and gently directed it over the North's diving goalie into the net.

Some 50,000 spectators packed the Seoul World Cup stadium to watch the friendly but did not wave the flags of either country.
Instead, under an agreement between the two sides, they cheered both teams with the same "unification flags" which feature a blue-colored Korean peninsula against a white background. The game was part of a four-day inter-Korean festival celebrating Korea's independence from Japan's 36-year colonial rule in 1945. The two Koreas are to hold a women's friendly on Tuesday. North Korea sent some 180 delegates to Seoul for the festivities.

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 2005 WORLD CUP QUALIFIER 

Is FIFAs Disciplinary Decision on North Korea Fair?

 by Leonid A. Petrov, The Korea Times, 17 May 2005

 

The recent riot at the Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang cost North Korea and its soccer fans dearly. During the game against Iran, angry North Korean players shoved the referee. Disappointed fans hurled bottles and rocks on the field after their appeals for a penalty were turned down. Soldiers and the public security forces moved in to suppress the public unrest so uncharacteristic of this communist state. After the game, the angry mob for two hours was preventing Iran's bus from leaving the stadium. The Stadium, which is believed to be sacred for every citizen, has been vandalised. The common belief that the public order in North Korea is fully controlled by the state has been shaken.     

The final stage of the 2006 World Cup preliminary competition does look dramatic for North Korea. The DPRK Football Association will be fined by FIFA and the next "home game" will be moved from North Korea to be played on a neutral ground and behind closed doors. When FIFA Disciplinary Committee's decision was announced a month later, many named it unfair and cruel. The currency-hungry state is forfeiting the equivalent of USD 16,800 in penalty. It will also lose hundreds of foreign guests and journalists who planned to visit Pyongyang on June 8, 2005, and miss the advantage over the rival team who are not accustomed to the artificial grass on the Kim Il-sung Stadium.

Indeed, is FIFAs decision fair? The North Koreans believe it is not and blame the wrong refereeing by the Syrian referee and linesmen. They promised to lodge an appeal against the Disciplinary Committees decision for its alleged favouritism toward Japan but no action has been taken so far. The South Korean Football Association is now trying to help their North Korean colleagues to lodge such appeal. It is a noble move but would not it be better to help the DPRK Football Association understand the reasons why they are being penalized? 

In handling this incident, one should not forget the FIFAs motto of fair play. The Disciplinary Committees decision has been made with consideration of safety for players, coaching staff, audience, and the fairness of the game in general. The North Koreans have failed to provide the safe environment during the match against Iran, a friendly state which is often grouped with the DPRK for its evil nuclear ambitions. What should we expect from the game where both states are technically at war with each other? The issues of kidnappings, territorial dispute, and history books may easily overshadow the atmosphere of international sport festival. 

 

Even the problem of neutral venue for the future match is causing a conflict. Where North Koreans would accept China as the neutral host nation, it is unacceptable for Japan due to the wave of recent anti-Japanese sentiments there. It is likely that the match will be played in Bangkok, Thailand. But North Koreans are not comfortable with this choice: in 1999 Thailand expelled six DPRK diplomats following a bungled refugee-kidnapping incident. Thais hot and humid climate is another obstacle for the North Korean players who spent most time training in north-eastern China.

 

Soccer matches between Korea and Japan are always sensational. They attract huge interest not only in the respective countries but also around the whole region. Bad sentiments about the former colonial order remain strong in the countries of East Asia and can be easily vented during the large-scale mass event. In the circumstances where North Korea has minimal chances to progress through the qualification tournament, the last game against Japan, if played in Pyongyang, could easily turn into a fight which would have very little to do with sport but would be all about hatred and politics. 

 

The football associations of North and South Korea should join their efforts in making the game enjoyable, fair, and safe for everyone. Negative sentiments associated with the turbulent history of the 20th century must be left behind the playground. This is what the North Koreans still have to learn and demonstrate by accepting FIFA's disciplinary decision. An extra credit will be given to them if they prevail and beat Japan on 8 June in Bangkok or elsewhere.

 

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North Korea Ordered to Play World Cup Match vs Japan in Bangkok 

May 10 (Bloomberg) -- North Korea's World Cup qualifying match against Japan next month will be played in an empty stadium in Bangkok as punishment for crowd trouble at games in Pyongyang in March, soccer ruling body FIFA said. 

FIFA ordered North Korea to hold the June 8 match at a neutral venue after fans threw chairs and bottles during a March 30 game against Iran at Kim Il Sung stadium. FIFA also cited violence in a match against Bahrain four days earlier. 

FIFA said today the Japan game will be played in the Thai capital after North Korea's Football Association failed to lodge an appeal against its April 29 decision to switch the match to a neutral venue and bar fans from the arena. 

Trouble erupted in the Iran game after the referee turned down a penalty appeal by North Korea with the home team trailing 2-0 with five minutes left. Match officials stayed on the field 25 minutes after the end before dashing off under a hail of bottles and plastic chairs. 

Sunil Senaweera, FIFA's commissioner at the match, said in an April 2 interview that holding the Japan game in Pyongyang would be dangerous unless security was bolstered. 

North Korea, seeking to play in the World Cup for the first time since reaching the 1966 quarterfinals, lost the first three of six qualifying matches. Iran, on seven points, leads the group in which the top two advance to next year's finals in Germany. Japan has six points, Bahrain has four and North Korea has none.

Lawmakers say South Korea should host North Korea-Japan World Cup qualifier 

Associated Press, 9 May 2005 

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - A bipartisan group of South Korean lawmakers have petitioned the world soccer body FIFA to let this country host a World Cup qualifier match between North Korea and Japan, which is being moved from Pyongyang after earlier soccer violence there, a legislator's office said Monday. 

Chung Bong-ju of the governing Uri Party told reporters at the National Assembly that 121 legislators had so far joined the petition, which will be sent Tuesday, his office said. In the petition, the legislators propose that FIFA make South Korea the venue for the June 8 match between North Korea and Japan, with spectators allowed in the stadium.

FIFA in late April ordered North Korea to play its crucial qualifier against Japan in a neutral country - and with no spectators - as punishment for crowd trouble during a 2-0 home loss against Iran in March. South Korea offered to host the qualifier, even as sports officials in Thailand have said they had been asked to host the game. It was not clear why the South Korean lawmakers proposed hosting it in their country instead.

During the Iran match, fans threw bottles and chairs onto the field when the referee turned down appeals for a penalty after a North Korean player was apparently pulled down by an Iranian. FIFA also fined the North Korean soccer association 20,000 Swiss francs (US$16,770; ?13,000). North Korea last week urged FIFA to reconsider its decision.

Japan accept venue switch to Thailand for North Korea qualifier

 Yahoo News, Sun May 8, 9:20 AM ET 

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's football chief said he had no objections to moving their away World Cup qualifier against North Korea to the neutral venue of Bangkok following crowd trouble at previous matches in Pyongyang.

"I have no reason to raise objections if I am asked 'how about Thailand?'" Japan Football Association president Saburo Kawabuchi told reporters on Sunday. "Aside from China, there will be no difference."

Kawabuchi has vowed to oppose any move to stage the June 8 qualifier in China, a close ally and neighbour of North Korea, because of violent anti-Japanese protests which swept through Chinese cities last month.

He was commenting the day after it was learned that the world football governing body FIFA had contacted Thailand's Football Association about the possibility of staging the North Korea-Japan match in Bangkok.

"After consulting with the association president and executives we replied to FIFA that we are willing to host that match, and as of now we are waiting for more details and information from FIFA," Worawi Makudi, secretrary general of the Thai association, said in Bangkok on Saturday.

FIFA was expected to contact Thailand this week for final details on the match, Worawi told AFP.

FIFA's disciplinary committee ruled nine days ago that the Japan-North Korea match be played on neutral ground and without spectators. The committee also fined the impoverished Stalinist state 16,800 dollars.

North Korean players jostled the referee and fans threw chairs, bottles and other objects onto the pitch when their team lost to Iran 2-0 at home on March 30. FIFA also cited trouble at North Korea's match against Bahrain on March 25.

On Friday North Korea's state-controlled media called on FIFA to reverse the decision which they said was "unreasonable" and probably influenced by pressure from Japan, Asian champions and political enemies of North Korea.

North Korea's hopes of reaching the World Cup finals for the first time in 40 years have all but faded after losing their first three matches.

The Japanese football chief said he had not heard from FIFA about a venue switch to Thailand or a North Korean appeal against the decision.

Zurich-based FIFA reportedly sent a formal letter on the sanction to Pyongyang by international courier service last Monday. North Korea were given three days to appeal against the punishment but it was not clear if the Stalinist state had acknowledged receiving the FIFA notice.

Japan beat North Korea 2-1 at home, amid political tensions over the Stalinist state's kidnapping of Japanese citizens during the Cold War years.

Iran stand at the top of the Asian Group B with two wins and one draw, followed by Japan with two wins and one loss. Bahrain follow with one win, one loss and one draw and North Korea are winless.

North Korea match set for Thailand

CNN.com , Saturday, May 7, 2005 Posted: 7:41 AM EDT (1141 GMT) 

TOKYO, Japan -- North Korea's politically charged World Cup qualifier against Japan next month will be played in Bangkok, Thai media have said. The Bangkok Post reported that Thai officials have received a fax from FIFA requesting the match be held in Thailand after it was switched from North Korean capital Pyongyang. 

FIFA ordered the June 8 clash to be played in a neutral country behind closed doors following crowd trouble after North Korea's 2-0 defeat by Iran on March 30. FIFA punished North Korea after fans hurled bottles, rocks and other projectiles in protest at a late sending off in the game with Iran at the Kim Il-sung Stadium.

Soldiers moved in to restore calm as North Korean fans prevented Iran's bus from leaving the stadium after the game in a rare display of public disorder in the secretive communist state. North Korea's state-run media blasted FIFA's decision as "unjust" while South Korean officials are assisting the North to file an appeal.

Neutral observers have also questioned the severity of FIFA's punishment. Franz Beckenbauer, chairman of Germany's 2006 World Cup organising committee, suggested FIFA had "over-reacted". "The decision was made in Zurich so maybe FIFA didn't know exactly what happened," he said in Seoul this week. "Maybe FIFA is over-reacting. North Korea should have another chance."

Japanese officials lobbied to have the game moved from Pyongyang and avoid a politically awkward visit given the bitter relations between the two governments. Japan indicated, however, that they would protest if FIFA ordered the game to be played in China after weeks of anti-Japan demonstrations in the country.

North Korea demand FIFA reverse sanctions over World Cup qualifer 

Yahoo News, Fri May 6, 6:31 AM ET

TOKYO (AFP) - North Korea's media called on FIFA to reverse its decision to move their home World Cup qualifier against Japan to a third country as a punishment for crowd trouble at previous matches in Pyongyang. 

The North Korean sports daily Cheyuk Sinmun said the decision by the world football governing body was "unreasonable" and probably influenced by pressure from Japan, Asian champions and political enemies of North Korea.

FIFA's disciplinary committee ruled a week ago that the Japan-North Korea match on June 8 be played on neutral ground and without spectators. The committee also fined the impoverished Stalinist state 16,800 dollar.

North Korean players jostled the referee and fans threw chairs, bottles and other objects onto the pitch when their team lost to Iran 2-0 at home on March 30. FIFA also cited trouble at North Korea's match against Bahrain on March 25.

The sports daily said it hoped FIFA would reexamine the case and "make a wise judgment for the sake of its authority, the development of football and the future of the FIFA."

The commentary was carried by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency monitored here while the North Korean football association remained silent on how it would react to the punishment.

FIFA reportedly informed the association by letter on Monday and it was given three days to appeal against the sanction.

"I understand that our football association sent a reply to FIFA yesterday, stating its case against the FIFA decision on the basis of sportsmanship," said an official at the Korean Physical Culture and Sports Federation in Japan, a Pyongyang-controlled group of ethnic Koreans.

The sports daily repeated a statement by the North Korean football association that the reactions of the players and spectators resulted from unfair refereeing. It went on to point its finger at Japan. "What should not be overlooked is that the committee could not properly fulfill its duty because it more attentively listened to an 'advice' made by Japan," it said.

The daily pointed to reports that Japan quickly proposed Malaysia as the substitute venue for the upcoming qualifier after the FIFA action. "It is the ulterior motive of Japan to trounce the (North Korean) team by creating a favorable environment for it come what may," the daily said. "If it is true that the dignified FIFA Disciplinary Committee accepted Japan's 'advice,' it would be an irretrievable historic mistake committed by it."

Iran stand at the top of the Asian Group B with two wins and one draw, followed by Japan with two wins and one loss. Bahrain follow with one win, one loss and one draw and North Korea are winless.

FIFA Disciplinary Committee's Unreasonable "Decision" Refuted

Pyongyang , May 6 (KCNA) -- Cheyuk Sinmun (sports newspaper) of the DPRK Friday in a commentary termed the "decision" taken by the Disciplinary Committee of the FIFA against the behaviors of Korean spectators an unreasonable one. The commentary says: Recently the committee took a disciplinary step against behaviors of spectators after the matches between the DPRK team and the Bahraini team and between the DPRK team and the Iranian team.

The "decision" calls for holding the match between the DPRK team and the Japanese team in a stadium without spectators in a third country, instead of having it in Pyongyang on June 8 as scheduled, and imposing a fine upon the DPRK team.

The disciplinary measure taken by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee against the behaviors of spectators after painting them as a "disturbance" and considering it as an established fact is lashing the Korean people into great fury because they deem the national dignity as their life and soul.

It was a prejudice that the FIFA Disciplinary Committee "branded" the just actions of spectators as a "disturbance" or "commotion". The DPRK Football Association in a statement of its spokesman protested against the unreasonable behavior of the referees, sent video tapes on which the unfair refereeing is recorded to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and its members received and watched them. And the committee exceptionally invited a DPRK delegation to hear from it the principled request for dealing with the unreasonable behavior of the referees. The committee, however, turned it down and adopted such a harsh "decision" against the DPRK team.

The soccer history does not record such awfully unfair refereeing as what happened during the matches held here. If the FIFA Disciplinary Committee allows such partial refereeing to go on, this will cast a darker shadow on the development of the world soccer in the future.

The committee should sternly punish those who partially refereed the matches and apply sanctions against them. The committee has left a blot on its history by taking such an unjust "decision" against the DPRK team which took just actions while respecting rules concerning discipline instituted by the FIFA.

What should not be overlooked is that the committee could not properly fulfill its duty because it more attentively listened to an "advice" made by Japan . This is the comment of the world public.

No sooner had the committee made the unreasonable decision than Japan proposed to have Malaysia as the venue of match before any other country. It is the ulterior motive of Japan to trounce the DPRK team by creating a favorable environment for it come what may. Japan is running so wild to achieve its aim, unaware that it has become a laughing-stock of the world.

If it is true that the dignified FIFA Disciplinary Committee accepted Japan 's "advice," it would be an irretrievable historic mistake committed by it. It is our hope that the FIFA Disciplinary Committee will reexamine the issues related to the above-mentioned case and make a wise judgment for the sake of its authority, the development of football and the future of the FIFA. We will closely follow the future attitude of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee.

South Korea backs North Korea


AP, 2 May 2005


South Korea plans to recommend that North Korea's football association appeal against FIFA's decision to impose sanctions after incidences of crowd violence. On Friday, football's world governing body ordered that North Korea play its June 8 home World Cup qualifier against Japan in a closed stadium at a neutral venue as punishment for crowd trouble at qualifying matches against Bahrain and Iran at the communist state's capital, Pyongyang, in March. FIFA also fined the North Korean football association 20,000 Swiss francs ($A21,500).

South Korean football association president Chung Mong-joon, who is also a FIFA vice president, said he plans to recommend through various channels that North Korea make a protest against FIFA's decision, noting that an objection can be raised within three days of such decision. "I will try my best so that North Korea's position is reflected," Chung said. "I think the punishment against North Korea is stronger than expected." There were no reports whether the North Korean association planned to appeal the FIFA decision.

North Korean fans threw bottles and rocks on the field after appeals for a penalty were turned down by the referee during the game against Iran. The Iranian team and match officials were forced to remain in the stadium until police and soldiers stopped the violence that spilled outside the venue. North Korea's coach also complained of the refereeing in the match against Bahrain. North Korea lost both games, jeopardising its hopes of qualifying for its first World Cup since 1966, when it reached the quarter-finals. The national team is playing international matches for the first time since 1994. FIFA is yet to name the venue for the June 8 match with Japan.

 Japan rejects China as venue for WC qualifier against North Korea

Yahoo News, Sat Apr 30, 2005,  9:33 AM ET 

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's football chief said he would reject any move to stage North Korea's home World Cup qualifier in China, following crowd unrest at previous matches in Pyongyang. The world football governing body FIFA decided on Friday to play the June 8 qualifier against Japan in a third country and without spectators.

But Japanese officials are wary about the prospect of playing in China after recent violent anti-Japanese demonstrations swept through Chinese cities. "We will express our wish to FIFA and Malaysia would be the best," Saburo Kawabuchi, president of the Japan Football Association, told a news conference Saturday. "We can hardly say there would be no problem if it is played in China under the present circumstances," he said, adding that he would object to a match in China, a close ally and neighbour of North Korea.

Demonstrators attacked Japanese diplomatic and business facilities in Chinese cities earlier this month, protesting what they called Japan's wrong perceptions of its militarist past. Angry Chinese supporters also burned Japanese flags and confronted armed riot police after their side crashed 3-1 to defending champions Japan in the Asian Cup final last year.

FIFA said it would announce the substitute venue to North Korea in "due course" and the FIFA sanction can be appealed within three days. It also fined the North Korean football association 16,800 dollars. 

The venue shift and fine was in response to North Korean players who jostled the referee and fans who threw chairs, bottles and other objects onto the pitch when their team lost to Iran. 2-0 at home on March 30. FIFA also cited trouble at North Korea's match against Bahrain on March 26.

Kawabuchi said Japan would provide financial support to North Korea in playing the match on neutral ground "if they request our support". The Japanese FA chief also warned that without spectators "it is undoubtedly going to be a match which will hardly provide much motivation".

But the venue switch is widely seen here as a boon to the Japanese who are unfamiliar with the infamous artificial pitch at Pyongyang's Kim Il-Sung Stadium. The Japanese association had planned to increase the number of studs in the shoes from 13 to 15 to cope with the hard surface. Japan have a sentimental attachment to Kuala Lumpur's Johor Bar stadium where they clinched a dramatic victory over Iran in a 1997 playoff and won their first ever ticket to the World Cup finals.

Japan coach Zico said he had no preference as to the host country. "We can have a good match if there is a pitch which is ordinary by Japanese standards." About the absence of spectators, the Brazilian said, "I have never experienced it myself. We have no choice but train with the new situation in mind, including the problem of concentration". "The team are prepared to produce a result under any circumstances," he added.

An official from the Korean Physical Culture and Sports Federation in Japan said FIFA's decision "is the worst possible situation". The federation is run by the Pyongyang-controlled General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, and the official told AFP: "I believe our country will file a protest in some form with FIFA." 

Korea DPR told to play at neutral venue

 

29 April 2005, by FIFAworldcup.com

 

Photo

The referee holds back North Korean player Nam Song Chol after a penalty decision. World football governing body FIFA punished North Korea for crowd unrest at their recent World Cup qualifiers and ordered the team to play its next home game against Japan on neutral territory and behind closed doors.(AFP/Peter Parks)  

The FIFA Disciplinary Committee met today in Zurich under the chairmanship of Marcel Mathier (Switzerland). The decisions taken today included the following, which have already been notified to the three associations mentioned below who were all present at FIFA headquarters.

   

Following the incidents that occurred during the games of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany preliminary competition Korea DPR-Bahrain (March 26, 2005) and Korea DPR-Iran (March 30, 2005), the next scheduled "home game" of Korea DPR in this competition (v Japan on June 8, 2005) will be played on neutral ground and behind closed doors. 

 

FIFA will announce the venue in due course. In addition, the DPR Korea Football Association has been fined CHF 20,000.  

 

 

North Korea's World Cup Soccer Match With Japan Will Be Moved  

Yunsuk Lim in Seoul,  April 29, 2005

April 30 (Bloomberg) -- North Korea will not be allowed to host a World Cup qualifying match with Japan because violent fans disrupted a game between North Korea and Iran last month, said FIFA, world soccer's governing body.

The match between North Korea and Japan on June 8 ``will be played on neutral ground and behind closed doors,'' FIFA said on its website yesterday. ``FIFA will announce the venue in due course,'' it said. North Korea has also been fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($16,700).

North Korean fans threw bottles and rocks down onto a field after a referee ruled against the North Korean team in a match against Iran on March 30 at the Kim Il Sung stadium in Pyongyang. North Korea lost the match 0-2.

North Korea is competing to win a place at the World Cup in Germany next year. In its qualifying group, North Korea lags Iran, which has seven points, Japan with six points, and Bahrain with four points. North Korea has none. The top two teams are assured of a place of a spot at next year's World Cup. 

North Korea ordered to face Japan on neutral venue

   Fri Apr 29, 2005, 11:26 AM ET

ZURICH (AFP) - World football governing body FIFA punished     North Korea for crowd unrest at their recent World Cup qualifiers and ordered the team to play its next home game against Japan on neutral territory and behind closed doors. FIFA said it will announce the venue in due course for the June 8 match.

The Asian region qualifier for the 2006 World Cup had been scheduled to take place in the North Korean capital Pyongyang. FIFA also finded the North Korean football association 20,000 Swiss francs (13,000 euros, 16,800 dollars). North Korean players jostled the referee and fans threw chairs, bottles and other objects onto the pitch when the team lost to     Iran 2-0 at home on March 30.

A bus carrying the Iranian team was also attacked by North Koreans outside the Kim Il-Sung Stadium. FIFA also cited trouble at North Korea's match against Bahrain on March 26.

The Japanese government had already asked for assurances for the safety of its team and fans. Japan have high hopes of qualifying for the World Cup finals after a 1-0 win over Bahrain. They also beat North Korea 2-1 at home in their opening match of Asia's last-eight qualifying round while North Korea's dreams were all but crushed by their defeat to Iran.

 In other rulings released Friday, FIFA's disciplinary committee sanctioned Iran for crowd trouble during a match against Japan on March 26. Iran will have to play their next home game -- against North Korea on June 3 -- in front of a maximum 50,000 fans. FIFA fined the Iranian FA 30,000 Swiss francs.  

The football body also ordered Georgia to play their next two home matches behind closed doors, a sanction applying to games against Ukraine on September 3 and Kazakhstan on October 8. Georgia, who were also fined 5,000 Swiss francs, were punished for trouble during their World Cup qualifier against Greece on March 26. All the sanctions can be appealed within three days, FIFA said. However, the Iranian FA has already announced it will not appeal, FIFA added.

Its Rare for People in a Controlled Society to Cause a Disturbance

by Soon-Taek Kwon (maypole@donga.com) Tong-A Ilbo, MARCH 31, 2005 23:48

The foreign media paid keen attention to the North Korean audiences furious reaction after the 2006 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifier between North Korea and Iran at Pyongyangs Kim Il Sung Stadium on March 30.  

Though the disturbance erupted because of a Syrian referees decision not to allow a penalty kick, the foreign media noted that this sort of disturbance inside the controlled country usually failed to reach the notice of outsiders. 

The foreign news agencies, including the Associated Press (AP), Agence France-Presse (AFP), Reuters, and Kyodo News, introduced the riot by North Koreans in full detail, reporting directly from Seoul or Pyongyang.

The Reuters News Agency remarked, The world has been granted a rare sneak peak into North Korean mob violence, while AFP introduced the commotion by saying, Its rare for the Norths crowd violence to be caught by the foreign press.

The foreign media outlets quoted Iranian players as saying that it was a very dangerous situation, reporting that the police set up a defensive line as bottles, stones, and chairs from the angry crowd were thrown onto the Iranian players at the stadium and that the police also blocked the crowd outside the stadium.

Regarding the situation outside the stadium, AFP reported that there was a danger of its becoming violent and that the crowd and the police exchanged some tussling, but added that large-scale violence or fighting did not seem to have occurred.

The AP reported that there were 70,000 audience members inside the stadium and Reuters said that thousands of people remained outside the stadium two hours after the match had ended.

Meanwhile, the Japanese press also reported this recent uprising by North Koreans, focusing on the violence of the North Korean crowd. The Japanese team has a match in North Korea on June 8.

The Sankei Sports expressed its concern by saying, North Korea will put everything into its match against Japan, since it has nothing left to lose after three consecutive losses.

FootballAsia.com said that North Korea is sure to be subjected to a disciplinary measure by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) for its crowd violence, in a detailed report on its interview with the Iranian coach.  

Seats Thrown in Sacred Kim Il Sung Stadium

Dong-A Ilbo, MARCH 31, 2005 23:48  

 Photo

Match officials stand amongst chairs broken by angry North Korea fans. World football governing body FIFA punished North Korea for crowd unrest at their recent World Cup qualifiers and ordered the team to play its next home game against Japan on neutral territory and behind closed doors.(AFP/Peter Parks)  

 North Korean spectators breaking off and throwing seats in the Kim Il Sung Stadium on March 30, despite the large presence of foreign news reporters, presents a stark contrast to female cheerleaders from the North, who had shed tears at the sight of Kim Il Sungs picture on a placard getting wet in the rain, during the Summer Universiade Daegu in August 2003.

The stadium where the turmoil took place is considered a sacred place, named after the North Koreans late Great Leader. Purposely destroying the facilities of such a place is equivalent to committing a political felony.

The fact that the disturbance took place, even under such circumstances, reflects the enormous anger shared by the spectators. Moreover, most of the cheerers seen on the TV screen were wearing expensive coats that cost as much as KPW 30,000 ($12). They seemed to be the core class mobilized for the game. It was these elites that protested against the Peoples Security Force (North Korean police).  

Two days before the match against Iran, North Korean Central TV broadcasted the game against Bahrain, in which North Koreans became infuriated at unfair judgments by referees as well. With the frustration they had felt still churning, North Koreans eventually burst into a rage, believing their team faced continued partial judgments on their home ground and already feeling annoyed about their teams losing all of its three matches.

What was also exceptional is that the North Korean TV aired a taped broadcast of the losing game and the sight of angry spectators making strong appeals, possibly out of concern that imposing report control as before could backfire, shifting the peoples anger into another direction.    

-

30 March 2005, ITAR Tass, (in Russian) 

 

-2006 . 2:0, . 

. , . , -.
    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On March 30, after the World Cup qualifier soccer match between North Korea and Iran, North Korean fans strongly protest the final results to Iranian coach Ivankovic, who was interviewing outside the stadium.  

 

FIFA TO INVESTIGATE AFTER VIOLENCE MARS DPRK DEFEAT

by Gordon Tynan, The Independent, 31 March 2005

 

FIFA is awaiting referee Mohammed Kousa's report before launching an investigation after he and two assistants were forced to seek refuge from angry North Korea fans following the World Cup qualifier against Iran. Iran beat North Korea 2-0 in Pyongyang yesterday in a match that ended in violent scenes to take the outright lead in their World Cup qualifying group. The match officials were unable to leave the pitch for 20 minutes after the game as furious North Korea fans hurled bottles, rocks and chairs in frustration. North Korean soldiers and police were forced to step in to restore order at Kim Il-Sung Stadium after the defender Nam Song-Chol was sent off for shoving the Syrian referee Kousa. The violence spilled over outside the stadium where thousands of angry North Korea supporters prevented Iran's players from boarding the team bus. Riot police finally pushed back the crowd far enough for Iran's squad to depart two hours after the end of the game.


"The atmosphere on the pitch and outside the pitch was not a sports atmosphere," said Iran's Croatian coach, Branko Ivankovic. "It is very disappointing when you feel your life is not safe. My players tried to get to the bus after the game but it was not possible - it was a very dangerous situation." A deflected free-kick from Mehdi Mahdavikia in the 33rd minute and a Javad Nekounam goal 10 minutes from time gave Iran seven points from three games in the final round of the Asian zone qualifiers for 2006. Tempers flared towards the end of the Group B match as Nam was dismissed for pushing Kousa after he had denied the defender a penalty. The game was held up for five minutes following Nam's dismissal as bottles rained down on to the stadium's running track. As trouble reignited on the final whistle, security forces were mobilized and stadium announcements warned the crowd of 60,000 to be calm. The result left North Korea's hopes of qualifying for their second World Cup in tatters after their third consecutive defeat.  

 

North Korea Loses All Three Matches Played

by Soon-Il Kwon, Dong-A Ilbo, MARCH 30, 2005 23:19

North Korea may have to surrender its dream of playing in the World Cup finals for the first time in 40 years. North Korea lost 0-2 to Iran at the Group B qualifiers for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany held at Pyongyangs Kim Il Sung Stadium on March 30. With three losses, North Korea is now in last place in Group B. Iran is the leader with two wins and one tie (seven points). Even if it wins all of the remaining three games, North Korea is now unlikely to gain direct entry to the World Cup finals, which is given to the top two teams in each group, since the team will still have only nine points.

Never having played in the World Cup finals since the team made the quarterfinals in the 1966 FIFA World Cup England, North Korea enlisted Ahn Young Hak (Nagoya Grampus), who is playing in Japans J-League, before the 2006 World Cup Germany qualifiers, but the problem lies in the teams poor defense.

Iran is 20th in the FIFA ranking and North Korea is 91st. Having lost to Bahrain in the March 25 match, North Korea played a cautious game against stronghold Iran, but failed to catch up in terms of expertise and operation against its opponent who was fully armed with players including stars from Germanys Bundesliga teams.

The North Korean team, in which Kim Young Soo and Choi Chul Man are the top two players, threatened Irans goal at 12 minutes in the first half and later aimed for the goal with Kim Chul Hos shot 27 minutes into the game.

However, Iran, armed with shooters Mehdi Mahdavikia, Ali Karimi and Vahid Hashemian, turned the tables in the 22nd minute with Zandis powerful left-foot shoot and later scored the first goal in the 33rd minute. A free-kick chance lead to this goal when the ball kicked by Mahdavikia went over the North Korean goalkeepers head and directly into the goal.

With the full support of around 70,000 home fans, North Korea played an equal game in the first half, having 5-6 shooting chances each, and also switched three players and went all-in in the second half, but succumbed to its opponent 35 minutes into the second half by allowing a second goal to Javad Nekounam.  

Football Match Held between DPRK and Iranian Teams

Pyongyang, March 31 (KCNA) -- A football match between the DPRK and the Iranian teams belonging to the group B of the 2006 World Cup Asian regional qualifier took place in Pyongyang on Wednesday. The Iranian team won the game 2:0. At the end of the match all the spectators were angered and vigorously protested the wrong refereeing by the Syrian referee and linesmen.

Buoyant Iran to take on desperate North Koreans

 

29 March 2005, by AFP  

 

 

Iran have travelled to Korea DPR for their FIFA World Cup qualifying match on Wednesday overflowing with confidence, but their desperate hosts are sure to come out fighting after two defeats. Iran sit at the top of the Group B standings along with Bahrain after defeating Japan 2-1 in front of 100,000 fans at Tehran's Azadi stadium last week, and coach Branko Ivankovic believes his in-form team can be equally impressive in Pyongyang. 

"We are going to North Korea to get the full three points," Ivankovic told reporters after the win over Japan, who won the Asian Cup last year but are now languishing in third place in the group. "We have overcome the champions of Asia. We have overcome the biggest obstacle."   

In contrast, the North Koreans are bottom of Group B after losing to an injury-time goal away to Japan and then suffering a demoralising 2-1 defeat by Bahrain in Pyongyang last week. A third straight loss could close the door on their hopes of reaching the World Cup finals for just the second time. Korea DPR's only previous appearance was in 1966 when they famously upset Italy 1-0 on their way to the quarter-finals. 

The speedy North Koreans dominated for much of the match against Bahrain and were extremely unlucky not to have found the net more than once, but their vulnerability to the counterattack allowed the visitors to capitalise. Korea DPR coach Yun Jong-Su blamed the loss on the referees and said he was considering lodging a complaint with FIFA, but spent the five days between the Bahrain and Iran matches more concerned with hardening up his defence.

"We lost the last two matches because of weakness in our defence so we are aiming to intensify our defence," team manager Pak Jong-Hun told reporters on Tuesday. To that end, Korea DPR will welcome the return from suspension of their captain and defensive pillar, Ri Myong-Sam. 

 

The key to a North Korean upset may well rest with their ability to contain Iran's trio of Bundesliga stars, Mehdi Mahdavikia of Hamburg, Kaiserslautern's Fereydoun Zandi and Vahid Hashemian of Bayern Munich. Hashemian scored both of Iran's goals in the Japan match, while Mahdavikia and Zandi along with Ali Karimi were among the team's key playmakers. Veteran captain Ali Daei, who Ivankovic initially ruled out of the game because of a hamstring injury, travelled with the team and is still in with a chance to play.  

 

Confident Iran sets sights on North Korea win

 

26 March 2005, by AFP  

Iran's 2-1 win over Japan in the Asian Group B World Cup qualifiers has given the Middle East side a boost in confidence and left their top Asian rivals wrangling over tactics.  

Iran made sure their World Cup dream was kept on track Friday with a convincing home win, largely thanks to their trio of Bundesliga-based stars - Vahid Hashemian of Bayern Munich, Mehdi Mahdavikia of SV Hamburg and Kaiserslautern's Fereydoun Zandi. Iran now share the lead in the group with Bahrain. Both teams are on four points, while Japan are in third with three and North Korea fourth on no points.  

"We are going to North Korea to get the full three points," Iran's Croatian coach Branko Ivankovic said, underlining his confidence before their trip to Pyongang to face North Korea in a few days' time. "We have overcome the champions of Asia. We have lifted the biggest obstacle in front of the World Cup," he said of the game against Japan, which drew a crowd of 100,000 to Tehran's Azadi stadium. 

 

Ivankovic said the Pyongyang fixture is set to be missed by veteran captain Ali Daei due to injury - he was substituted in the first half of the Japan game - but the side appeared to have managed well without him and in the face of a fierce Japanese counterattack. 

Both of Iran's goals came from Hashemian, with Ali Karimi, Mahdavikia and Zandi showing themselves to be strong playmakers. Iran's press was predictably full of praise for the national side, thanking them for a "new year's gift" and a "memorable day" coinciding with the Persian new year's holiday season.  

With only the top two teams in each group qualifying automatically for next year's tournament in Germany, Japan will now be under pressure to win their home game, against Bahrain, at the Saitama stadium near Tokyo on March 30. And this will be no walkover. Bahrain held Iran to a scrappy goalless draw last month and beat North Korea. 

Japanese coach Zico was under fire for gambling too much on out-of-form Fiorentina midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata, and for having opted to switch from a 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2 to accommodate him. "If we had played with the old style we would have played better," Asian Cup star Shunsuke Nakamura, who played alongside Nakata, told reporters after the match.  

 

Undermanned Bahrain upset North Korea 2-1 in Pyongyang

 

25 March 2005, by AFP  

 

Bahrain's bid to make the FIFA World Cup finals for the first time received an unexpected boost on Friday when they upset North Korea 2-1 in their Asian qualifying match in Pyongyang. Husain Ali was one of the stars for Bahrain, scoring both goals in the absence of injured star strikers Ala'a Hobeil and Rashid Jamal, while goalkeeper Mohammed Jaffar was equally impressive at the other end of the ground.  

For North Korea, it was a case of wasted opportunities in front of a noisy capacity crowd of 70,000 at Kim Il-Sung stadium as they attacked relentlessly all game, only to be denied on more than a dozen occasions by Jaffar.

Bahrain came into the match in disarray after their Croatian coach, Srecko Juricic, abandoned them last month in favour of Oman.  

With the injuries to Hobeil and Jamal, and playing in North Korea for the first time, even team officials were saying in the lead up to the match they would be content to escape with a draw. But, under former coach Wolfgang Sidka who returned to the team for just 10 days to help Bahrain in their matches against North Korea and Japan, they showed a fierce determination all game to fend off their attacking opponents.

 
North Korea made a furious start to the match, with Kim Yong-Jun's right foot attempt in the third minute going just wide and Jaffar having to fend off a close-range strike from Han Song-Chol a minute later.
North Korea were threatening again in the sixth minute when Bahrain struck on the counterattack, thanks largely to star midfielder Mohammed Salmeen, who came into the match under an injury cloud.

Salmeen made a driving run from halfway down the right side and crossed to a diving Ali, who headed past young North Korean goalkeeper Kim Myong-Gil. Jaffar put on a stunning display in the first half, making six pressure saves, including a spectacular dive to the right in the ninth minute to fend off a strike from Mun In-Guk.  

Bahrain took a 2-0 lead early in the second half when Ahmed Hubail took advantage of loose North Korean defence to run down the right flank and drill a cross to Ali, who had been left unattended in the penalty box and scored easily with a right-foot strike. North Korea were finally rewarded for their relentless attacking in the 62nd minute, when Pak Song-Gwan's header off a long cross found the net.    

 

In disarray, Bahrain walk into hostile North Korean territory

 

24 March 2005, by AFP  

Undermanned, abandoned by their coach and in hostile territory, Bahrain enter Friday's FIFA World Cup qualifying showdown against the steely North Koreans with their backs to the wall. Bahrain arrived in chilly Pyongyang on Wednesday, after three days of training in neighbouring China, without Srecko Juricic, their Croatian coach who quit suddenly last month, and injured star striker Ala'a Hubail. Fellow forward Rashid Jamal was with the squad but is also under an injury cloud and appears unlikely to start, according to officials travelling with the team.  

In contrast, the North Koreans appeared relaxed and confident during training on Wednesday at Kim Il-Sung stadium, the venue for Friday's clash, although they refused to speak with the media. The North Koreans, who unexpectedly finished top of group five in the second round of regional World Cup qualifying last year, lost their first Group B match of the final qualifying stage 2-1 to Japan last month. 

But the match was decided only in injury time and the North Koreans showed enough in that encounter to indicate they will be a much more formidable force on home soil and have a genuine chance to progress to Germany next year. Bahrain managed a goalless draw at home against Asian powerhouse Iran in their first match, but in the interim have seen Juricic walk out in favour of Oman and Hubail undergo a knee cartilage operation that will sideline him for months.

Bahrain recruited Juricic's predecessor, German Wolfgang Sidka, to oversee the team's matches against Iran and Japan on March 30. But he is coach of Qatar league side Al Arabi and will stay with Bahrain for just 10 days. Sidka put on a brave face when he met the media after Bahrain's first training session at Kim Il-Sung stadium late on Wednesday afternoon, claiming the loss of Hubail would not affect his team's chances against North Korea. "We have a lot of good players in our team and I trust all the other players as well," he said, adding he had been able to comfortably ease back into national coaching duties. "Altogether I have been with the team for four days. But I know the players very well because I was also the coach before."

 

However Sidka did express concern about the artificial turf surface at Kim Il-Sung stadium. "It is very unusual to play a World Cup qualification match on artificial grass but what can we do? We must adapt to the conditions, to the circumstances as soon as possible," he said.

With Japan and Iran favourites to take the top two positions in Group B and thus gain automatic entry into the World Cup finals next year, North Korea and Bahrain may well be competing for the vital third placing. The third-placed finishers in the two Asian groups will play off for a place in a second play-off against the fourth-placed team in the North and Central American and Caribbean Zone. 

North Korea have played in the World Cup just once, in England in 1966 when they famously beat Italy 1-0 on their way to the quarter-finals, eventually losing 5-3 to Portugal. Bahrain have never played in the World Cup but emerged as a regional footballing power last year when they made the semi-finals of the Asian Cup.  

 

Korea DPR set to allow Japan fans into Pyongyang

 

22 February 2005, by Reuters  

North Korea is poised to allow Japanese fans into the secretive communist state for the first time to watch a World Cup qualifier, the Japan Football Association (JFA) said on Tuesday. Officials visited North Korea's capital Pyongyang last week and gained an initial agreement that Japanese fans would be allowed to attend the Group B tie on June 8, JFA vice-president Junji Ogura said. 

North Korean officials have asked the JFA for the number of their fans expected to make the trip. The total is estimated at between 2,000 and 5,000 although the North Korean government has yet to announce how many visas will be granted. One hundred Japanese journalists and 50 photographers will be permitted to cover the game, on strict condition they report on soccer only. Japanese fans are likely to arrive in Pyongyang on June 6 and leave on June 9.  

Japan claimed a fortuitous 2-1 victory over North Korea in a tense opening game earlier this month. The JFA had allocated about 5,000 tickets to Japan-based North Korean supporters. The match was played amid tight security because of fears that bitter political divisions between the two countries might spill over. The next matches in the final round of Asian qualifiers take place on March 25. The top two from each four-team group gain automatic qualification to next year's World Cup in Germany.

 

Inexperience costs Korea DPR dear

 

11 February 2005, by FIFAworldcup.com  

After Nam Song-chols heroic equalizer had silenced the blue-clad crowd of 59,000 in Tokyos Saitama Stadium, the visiting Korea DPR side were only seconds from stunning the hosts by taking an away point in the opening round of the Asian Zones qualifying finals for 2006 Germany. Substitute Masahi Oguro was the man who rose deep into injury time to save Zico and the teams blushes. The match was almost a carbon copy of last Februarys 1-0 home win over Oman, the opening match of the second qualifying stage, where Kubo scored the only goal in the last minute.  

The match was dubbed a lucky victory for Japan by the local media, but the teams Brazilian coach Zico breathed a sign of relief. The three points are vital and it's important that we build on this. Japan extended their winning record against Korea DPR after they had defeated their rivals 3-0 in a 1994 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Doha.  

For Zicos counterpart, coach Yun Jong-Su, who had prepared his team for two months since last December, this was a bitter moment. I dont say we cant take defeat but it is painful to lose in such a way, the rueful 43-year-old said. His well-prepared young charges, with an average age of just 23-years-old, may have stepped onto the pitch with confidence, but they conceded an early goal after only three minutes, punished for their lack of international experience. 

A tense-looking Ri Myong-sam needlessly tripped Alessandro Santos, and Mitsuo Ogasawara stepped up to launch a powerful free-kick which flew past the Korean wall before dipping into the bottom left hand corner. The Korea DPR keeper Sim Sung-chol hardly even moved.

 
But the Koreans, with their sensational quarter-final finish in 1966 England still a fond memory for their supporters, struck back on the break.
The efforts paid dividends on 61 minutes, when first half substitute Nam Song-chols blistering left-footed shot gave Japan goalkeeper Kawaguchi no chance. Zico, who fielded a home-based team, quickly sent on Hamburg SV forward Naohiro Takahara and Reggina midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura in search of all three points.  

Just as things appeared to be going to coach Yun Jong-Sus plan, Sim Sung-chol again showed his inexperience to let the teams point slip away. His weak punch fell at the feet of Masahi Oguro, who turned well to send the ball home. The gusty Koreans may be called "unlucky", but their relatively young defensive line, with the goalkeeper a notable Achilles heel, is what coach Yun Jong-Su needs to improve upon before their next qualifier when they host Bahrain at Pyongyang on 25 March.  

 

 

Asian round-up: Japan and Korea Republic on course

9 February 2005, by FIFAworldcup.com

Japans Brazilian coach Zicos policy of using home-based players paid off again as two J-league players, Kashima Antlers midfielder Mitsuo Ogasawara and Kashiwa Reysol forward Masahi Oguro scored either side of half-time to secure the home team a hard-won opening victory.

With a backdrop of blue-cladded home supporters, dotted with small patches of Japan-born Korean citizens with their national flags, Asias top ranked team got off with a dream start. Japan were awarded a free-kick from the left for a foul on Alessandro Santos by Korea DPR captain Ri Myong-sam, Ogasawaras curling kick flew past the defending wall before nestling in the bottom left of the Korean goal.

Despite the early blow, coach Yun Jong-Sus young team hit back hard in the opening 24 minutes. Japan keeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi was quickly forced into action when An Yong-hak fired in a low drive. But only three minutes later, Japan nearly made it 2-0 when Keiji Tamada was only inches away from tapping in a loose ball from close range.

The experienced Japan side continued to push forward in their quest to double their lead in the second half, while their rivals gradually found their feet with speedy counter-attacks. Nam Song-chol hit a left-footed equalizer from a tight angle on 61 minutes. The goal triggered an instant celebration and sparked attacking waves from Korean side. With time ticking towards the end, Masahi Oguro rose to score the winner that saved both Zico and his teams blushes.  

 

Japan scrape 2-1 win over brave Korea DPR

9 February 2005, by Reuters  

Substitute Masashi Oguro snatched an injury-time winner to give Japan a lucky 2-1 victory over North Korea in the first match of the final round of Asian World Cup qualifiers on Wednesday. Oguro stabbed home from close range after a poor punch from North Korea goalkeeper Sim Sung-chol as Japan escaped with three points from a fiercely contested Group B game in Saitama. "It's a painful way to lose," North Korea coach Yun Jong-su told reporters. "The plan was to attack Japan and we tried to do that. Now we have to lift ourselves for the next game."  

Japan took the lead in the fourth minute when Mitsuo Ogasawara curled in a free kick from 25 metres following North Korea captain Ri Myong-sam's trip on Brazilian-born Alex. North Korea equalised after 61 minutes when substitute Nam Song-chol smashed home a left-foot shot from an acute angle that beat goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi at his near post. 

The match was played amid tight security because of fears that bitter political divisions between two countries could spill over.

Japan had mobilised nearly 3,500 police and security officials but the crowd of 59,000 respectfully applauded the North Korean national anthem before the match. 

North Korea fought back bravely after Ogasawara strike, and midfielder Mun In-guk's diving header forced a superb save from Kawaguchi six minutes into the second half. Nam's equaliser, after a sweeping move, was the least North Korea deserved, though substitute Naohiro Takahara squandered two gilt-edged chances to restore Japan's lead before Ogura's late winner.  

"North Korea made it really difficult for us," Japan coach Zico said. "They destroyed our rhythm and rushed us into errors but we kept battling until the final whistle. "The three points are vital and it's important that we build on this." The teams last met in a World Cup qualifier in Doha in 1993 which Japan won 3-0. 

North Korea had vanished from the international scene after their shock appearance in the 1966 World Cup quarter-finals.

However, the reclusive communist state has lavished cash, modern apartments and cars on its players in a bid to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.  

 

Japan coach Zico wary of Korea DPR threat

 

8 February 2005, by Reuters  

Japan coach Zico insists his players will be ready for North Korea's physical style when they meet in an Asian World Cup qualifier on Wednesday. The two teams last met in 1993 when Japan beat North Korea 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Doha but the Koreans have looked strong after years in the international wilderness.  

"North Korea are a strong team and will want to win as badly as we do so we must make sure we keep our focus throughout," Zico said on Tuesday. "Our resilience and mental strength will be key but if we play the way we did in our last two games we'll be in position to take three points."  

Asian champions Japan beat Kazakhstan 4-0 and Syria 3-0 in two warm-up matches and Zico is set to start with a Japan-based eleven for what will be a highly charged encounter in Saitama. "The crucial opening game has finally arrived," said the Brazilian. "We worked extremely hard in training and we've set ourselves up exactly right for this game."

 

Relations between the countries have been bitter since Japan's 1910-1945 colonisation of the Korean peninsula. Recently the issues of North Korea's nuclear arms ambitions and Japanese abductees have further strained ties. North Korea's footballers have done little since their shock run to the 1966 World Cup quarter-finals but they are intent on springing an upset in their Group B opener. 

"We haven't come here to lose," said North Korea's coach Yun Jong-su. "I can't make any predictions but we've trained hard and are confident of giving a good account of ourselves." North Korea arrived in Japan after an intensive training camp in freezing southern China. 

"My lungs hurt there just from jogging," said Nagoya Grampus Eight's An Yong-hak, who along with Hiroshima's Ri Han-jae is one of two J-League players in the North Korea squad. "It's not so cold here -- just right. We're in prime condition for this game and we're ready to go." Hiroshima-based Ri Han-jae is also set to play against the country of his birth.

 

North Korea's players were transported to secret training venues in China in a blacked-out bus and they held a final session behind closed doors on Tuesday.  

 

Improving Korea DPR ready to test Japan in qualifier

 

7 February 2005, by Reuters  

Japan will be wary of the threat posed by North Korea when they meet in the opening match of the final round of Asian World Cup qualifiers on Wednesday. The two teams last met in 1993 when Japan won a World Cup qualifier 3-0 in Doha but North Korea coach Yun Jong-su believes the his side can spring a surprise in their Group B clash. "We have trained hard and the spirit among the players is good," he told reporters after the squad's arrival on Monday. "We have enough information about Japan and it's only logical that we've come here to win." 

North Korea have achieved little success on the pitch since their shock quarter-final appearance at the 1996 World Cup.

But they progressed to the final round of Asian 2006 qualifiers in some style and the country's communist government has lavished cash, modern housing and luxury cars on the players as an incentive to reach the 2006 World Cup.  

"The government gives them a colossal sum of (money), modern ... houses and luxurious cars," Ri Hi-yon, the vice-director of North Korea's physical culture and sports guidance commission said in an interview with the state-run KCNA news agency. Security will be on high alert for the game in Saitama amid concern that a diplomatic feud between Tokyo and Pyongyang might spill over this week. Japan has mobilised around 3,500 police and security officials to prevent any crowd trouble.  

 

Relations between the countries have been bitter since Japan's brutal colonisation of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945. They recently clashed over North Korea's nuclear arms ambitions and ties were further strained after the reclusive state admitted it had kidnapped Japanese citizens.

 

INSIDER KNOWLEDGE

North Korea's team arrived in Japan with useful insider knowledge. J-League players An Yong-hak and Ri Han-jae are both expected to play against the country of their birth. "It's not a war," said Nagoya Grampus Eight's An. "I know there are problems between Japan and North Korea but this match could have a positive effect."  

Apart from ethnic North Koreans An and Ri, North Korea's squad consists mainly of members of the army team "4.25" -- named after the date on which the Korean People's Army was founded. Japan coach Zico has left out European-based players Hidetoshi Nakata and Junichi Inamoto and kept faith with a squad largely made up of J-League players.  

 

Korea DPR spurred to act by South's success

 

28 January 2005, by Reuters  

 

South Korea's amazing run to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals struck a nerve in communist North Korea. Previously, North Korea's shock quarter-final appearance at the 1966 tournament in England had stood as Asia's best achievement at a World Cup. After Dutchman Guus Hiddink led co-hosts South Korea to the last four in 2002, officials in the North offered muted congratulations while pointedly reminding the South that they had set the benchmark 36 years previously.  

"Aside from the political differences, there is a great sports rivalry between North and South Korea," Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general secretary Peter Velappan told Reuters. "After the South finished fourth at the previous World Cup, the North definitely wants to match up." 

A few months after the 2002 World Cup, reclusive North Korea launched a FIFA-sponsored project to develop soccer in the impoverished country. It has brought swift rewards, with North Korea through to the final round of Asian 2006 World Cup qualifying following their return from the wilderness.  

They begin their campaign with a politically explosive clash against Asian champions Japan in Saitama on February 9. "It would be 40 years since North Korea first put Asian football on the map and they believe it is a good time for them to return to the limelight," said Velappan.

 

North Korea stunned the world by reaching the 1966 World Cup quarter-finals, beating Italy 1-0 on the way and taking a three-goal lead before bowing out to Portugal 5-3.

 

SURPRISE RUN

Their run to the final round of 2006 qualifiers was also something of a surprise, with North Korea edging out Thailand, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates to win Group Five. Japan, Iran and Bahrain represent a sterner challenge for North Korea in the deciding round of qualifiers but with Asia's generous allotment of berths, they cannot be counted out. The top two teams from each group advance to the 2006 finals in Germany with the two third-placed teams meeting in a two-legged playoff.  

The winner will then face a further playoff against a team from the CONCACAF zone to earn a possible fifth Asian spot. Malaysian Paul Mony, one of two development officers charged with establishing FIFA's "Goal Project" in North Korea, praised the country's youth development policy. "During my many visits to Pyongyang, I have always seen active participation of youth players as well as club teams," he said. "They face many difficulties...because (the) stadiums cannot be used during heavy winter conditions, which last around four to six months every year."  

ARTIFICIAL SURFACE

In late 2002, FIFA financed the renovation of the 100,000-capacity Kim Il-sung national stadium in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, laying a revolutionary artificial surface. A new training complex outside Pyongyang with a fully equipped gymnasium and a spacious building for the North Korean football association followed.

 

North Korea's recent success has not been limited to men's football. Their women's team are the Asian champions and the youth team have qualified for this year's world under-17 championship in Peru. "It shows that they really mean business," said Velappan. "The last few years, they have really put a lot of emphasis on youth and the results are paying dividends."  

North Korean officials have also been working overtime to prepare for the final round of qualifying matches, earning praise from an AFC inspection team in Pyongyang last week. "We had a very good trip," competition director Carlo Nohra told Reuters. "We saw the stadium in daylight as well as at night to test the floodlights. If the best score is five, they'd get a four."

 

Japan midfielder Ono unlikely to play Korea DPR

 

20 December 2004, by AFP  

 

Japanese star Shinji Ono is unlikely to join his national team for a home World Cup qualifier against North Korea in February due to surgery on his injured left ankle, news reports said Monday. The Feyenoord midfielder had to be substituted Sunday at halftime in the Dutch club's game againt ADO The Hague when he was fouled during first half injury time.  

Ono will go through surgery during the winter break up to January 23, Feyenoord manager Ruud Gullit was quoted as saying by Japanese media. "We cannot use him for six weeks," he said. Ono will return to Japan shortly for examinations, Kyodo News said.

The surgery might force Ono, along with Fiorentina star Hidetoshi Nakata, to be sidelined for Japan's first match in the last Asian round of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, scheduled for February 9 at home against North Korea, the Nikkan Sports daily said.  

"We must line up players in perfect condition to score the points for a win," Japan's coach Zico said last week. Skillful Ono has taken over the playmaking mantle from an injured Nakata on Japan's national team. Former skipper Nakata, twice the Asian footballer of the year, has not represented his country since March because of a groin injury and has often failed to make the first team since the start of the Italian Serie A season.

Zico has suggested he might drop Nakata from the North Korea game because of worries he would not be in his best form.

Japan were drawn into a "Group of Death" for the last round of Asian qualifying. They face political nemesis North Korea, mighty Iran and fast-improving Bahrain.


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