Tag Archives: 2010

North Korea & the World Cup

By David Wills

North Korea and the World Cup

North Korea is going to the World Cup this year. That’s something of which many of you may not be aware. However, I live in South Korea and am thus subjected to such information as though it were of any grand importance.

It may not grand the attention of the average sports fan. In fact, even I can’t name a single North Korean player.

But they’re going to be there, and pundits are expecting the worst performance in World Cup history. If the Norks manage to grand the title of Worst Team Ever, they’ll have to contend with their kimchi-fuelled brothers to the South, who took that dubious honour in 1954, conceding 16 goals in 2 games.

In some sense, then, people will care about North Korea. If you know want to watch a team vie for the position of Worst Team Ever, then you won’t want to miss a single game…

However, for the rest of us, it’s no big deal. There are plenty of shitty teams make it to the finals ever four years. North Korea have the honour of being the Evilest Team and the Poorest Team, but that’s not going to draw big crowds.

Which raises the question: Who will watch North Korea play?

The answers are a) whoever is playing against them, and b) South Korean fans. The possibility of banging in 10 goals in a game will surely have the Norks’ opponents glued to the screen. And in the South, shared blood is enough to compel viewers.

But what about North Koreans?

North Korea is famously poor, and its leadership has always denied the people the right to know what goes on outside its borders. Kim Jong-il wouldn’t want the people to see their team lose, for one thing.

More importantly, however, most North Koreans can’t afford a TV. If they could afford it, what channel would they watch? ESPN and BBC don’t broadcast in the most isolated state on earth. The football just wouldn’t be on screen.

Seoul had long ago promised to pay for North Korea’s World Cup coverage – to be broadcast to the people in town squares and such. But since the sinking of the Cheonan – when 46 South Koreans were killed by a North Korean torpedo – Seoul has refused to broadcast the football.

Which is a fairly tame response to the murder of 46 human beings and the sinking of an expensive warship.

But football is important even in hermit states, and no one wants to miss the World Cup. But without TV, the Norks will never get to see their team, regardless of whether they win or lose. The face is, no one in North Korea can afford to travel to South Africa. Besides, if anyone could afford to leave, they’d be denied a visa. The government doesn’t let anyone leave except for diplomats and the football team.

Instead, North Korea has given its tickets to an army of hardcore communist Chinese, who will cheer on their politically retarded brothers.

Chinese supporters aren’t exactly what you’d want at a World Cup match… China has never actually managed to score a World Cup goal.

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