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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #278: February 8, 2005

N.Korea Soccer Team Arrives in Japan to Flowers, Security

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

N.Korea Soccer Team Arrives in Japan to Flowers, Security


So the North Koreans have finally arrived to fight against the Japanese team in the opening match in the final round of the World Cup Germany next year.

The North Korean team has been training in places in China for the last few weeks, under tight security allowing no media to approach, no photos, no interviews. They held a practice match with the Kuwaitis in Beijing, but the ground was virtually encapsulated with white cloth to guard against peeking eyes. And the players wore uniforms without numbers on them so as not to reveal the identities of each member, which a Kuwaiti coach complained in an interview afterwards.

It was in 1966 when the North Korean team astonished the world by beating Italy in the first round of the World Cup finals, becoming one of the best eight teams in the tournament. Beginning in mid 70s, the Japanese team began to challenge the North Koreans, but it was not until well into the 80s when the Japanese team began to really compete with North Korea.

Then came 1993, in the World Cup qualifier in Doha, Japan beat North Korea 3-0, and immediately afterwards, North Korea disappeared from the international soccer scene. It was rumored that their leader Kim Jon-il became infuriated in losing against Japan and banned their team to play abroad. There were also speculations of relating it to the country's food shortage and fiscal deterioration.

North Korea returned to the international arena in the Asia Cup qualifier games in 2000. And the World Cup this time would be their first major challenge in pushing their team back again onto the international stage. It has been rumored that the good show performed by the South Korean team in the World Cup 2002 has stimulated the come back of North Korea. It would, in any case, a match for Japan after 12 years of absence against North Korea.

Some are anxious because of the hostility between the governments - and perhaps the peoples - of Japan and North Korea. We naturally expect the team members to play with sportsmanship, and the spectators to behave like civilized human beings, not like what was seen in China when they were at the fringe of starting a riot. But again, it would only need so many people to start pushing and shoving that could be amplified by excited spectators. In any case, rather than holding our breath in anxiety, it is better to relax and enjoy the game - whatever the results may be - scheduled to begin at 7:30 pm Japan Time on Wednesday February 9.

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