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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #279: February 10, 2005

Tension, No Trouble at Japan-N.Korea Soccer Match

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Tension, No Trouble at Japan-N.Korea Soccer Match
(by G. Nishiyama) Reuters


The Japanese spectators proved themselves to be among the most sophisticated and matured soccer fans in the world.

The atmosphere before the game around the stadium was tense. As reported in the article, the area and the stadium was the focus of unprecedented level of security, enforced by the police and other personnel. School hours at most of the elementary and junior schools in the region were shortened in order to avoid pupils and students being caught in a possible confusion.

Team members and the coaches were the only those visited from North Korea this time, totaling only 25 people. There were no cheer groups or not even reporters from North Korea, at least formally in that capacity. This perhaps need not be regarded as an expression of hostility, but it could still be interpreted as a sign of their cautiousness.

It turned out, however, that the 60 thousand spectators behaved very well. They stood up and stayed quiet to pay respect when the national anthems of both countries were played and the flags were hailed. There was no cursing or yelling against the opponent or their supporters in disadvantageous situations. And they left the stadium in the most orderly manner after the game, which itself was a bit of surprise as the stadium is relatively isolated from mass transportation network and a minimum level of confusion has been the norm whenever large events were held there. Most of the people interviewed were pleased and satisfied with the game. And all this was so for the supporters of North Korea as well as Japan.

Indeed, even the most hard-lined politicians had wanted the game to go smoothly because any mishap would be providing excuses for the North Korean regime in their act of hostilities in the past, and the future. It was the Japanese people's - and the Korean people living in Japan's - matured attitude in recognizing that notwithstanding the hostile posture of the North Korean regime, it was not to be counteracted upon the members of the soccer team, who have trained hard to become among the world's top levels, and have traveled to Japan to play a good game.

Perhaps out of anxieties combined with sheer fondness of the sport, the viewing rate on the live TV coverage marked a whopping 47.2% on the average, and the peak at 57.7%. There seems to be no reports at this point as to how the people in North Korea have watched and responded to the game, while some comment that the people there would not be informed of the losing game.

There were reports explaining most of the members of the North Korean team belong to the army's "4.25" squad, named for the founding date of the Korean People's Army, and they were promised of huge bonuses and privileges if they would win against Japan. Let us hope they would not be ill-treated when they get back. The Japanese people respect their attitude, and they in fact fought well.

The FIFA rules stipulate travel, lodging, and food be provided by the host country for the visiting team during their stay. This time, Japan offered the most prestigious, and expensive, hotel for the delegation's lodging. It would be interesting to see how North Korea accommodates the Japanese team in June when another match is planned in Pyongyang.

It may be superfluous to add that there was a small article earlier in the papers of the North Korean officials asking if they could omit playing the national anthem of Japan at the beginning of the game there in June, a proposal which Japan refused by citing a FIFA rule that it is mandatory to be played. Let us hope there are sports-loving people recognizing the sheer fun of soccer in North Korea.

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