Tag Archives: north korea

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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Group of Death: The Exes of Evil

By David S. Wills

The phrase “Group of Death” has been used in football since 1954, when England, Brazil, the Soviet Union and Austria were drawn together in the World Cup. In 1970 it was used again to describe the group consisting of Brazil, England, Czechoslovakia and Romania.

After that the phrase burst into the lexicon with use in most knock-out competitions. Anytime more than two good teams find themselves drawn together… “Group of Death.”

(Perhaps it’s my nationality that once again blinds me to reality… But looking back through the history of the “Group of Death,” I can’t help but notice how frequently Scotland are that sad fourth team, doomed to play against three of the best teams in the world. In 1992, the term “Group of Certain Death” was coined, specifically for the purpose of describing Scotland’s plight.)

It seems a little bit on an exaggeration. Very rarely to players die on the pitch, and even when they do the pundits hardly predicted that was going to happen.

But football isn’t always a particularly civilised sport. One could apply the phrase “Group of Death” to competitions in Africa, South America and the Middle East, knowing that an actual death is more likely than in the pansy Premiership.

Throughout history there have been teams for whom football hasn’t been about fast cars and loose women so much as avoiding torture or death. Ever wonder what happened to Wimbledon?

Under the reign of Saddam Hussein, the Iraq football team was encouraged to win matches by way of “motivational lectures.” These included having players’ legs cut off, and punishments were set for missed penalties and own goals.

In 1994, at the USA World Cup, Andres Escobar scored an own goal against the United States and sent his team back to Colombia. He was shot dead upon arrival, with his murderer screaming “goooooooal!” for each of the twelve bullets fired.

Death and football sadly have a little tighter relationship than we are accustomed to thinking. We don’t necessarily see the downside to football when we read about the massive contracts and the hot wives.

Today the groups were drawn for the 2011 Asian Cup. Group D (for Death!) is comprised thusly:

Iraq

Iran

North Korea

UAE

This, to me, seems like sitting a recently separated couple together at a dinner party. A couple with a history of extreme violence. A nuclear-enabled couple. And not just a couple… a veritable orgy of pissed off exes.

The exes of evil…

Back in Asian qualifying group for the 1994 World Cup, three of these teams were drawn again, albeit in a more regional-specific clusterfuck of a league:

Iraq

Iran

Saudi Arabia

North Korea

South Korea

Japan

This was actually dubbed the “Group of Death” by numerous humorous media pundits. The group consists of two of the most fearsome threesomes in recent history. Nations who’ve gone to war, never gotten over the horrors, and were somehow thrown into FIFA-sanctioned competition once again.

Thankfully there were no deaths on the pitch, but when a rogue camel ate a pot of kimchi it exploded and gave birth to modern terrorism.

Strange Rumblings in Iceland

By David S. Wills

Iceland – the land of the suffix –sson – has famously never qualified for a World Cup, never succeeded in any European completion at national or club level, and has Eidur Gudjohnsen as its only successful player in a long and embarrassing history.

Handball is the national sport, and that’s hardly conducive to a good footballing environment. If “god” had meant for Icelandic people to play handball he wouldn’t have made it so cold they had to wear mittens.

Next to handball comes some kind of medieval wrestling. According to Wikipedia, this sport is a combination of waltzing and chess.

Some even doubt Iceland is a part of Europe. Tucked away up there beyond even the Scottish Isles, Iceland is the part of the map covered by the pin. It’s the tiny Canada of Europe, if anything.

Iceland has numerous embassies around the United Kingdom, where impoverished chavs can exchange drug-stained British currency for a range of frozen goods, including oven chips and fish fingers.

So with this air of failure permanently wrapped around otherwise frigid island nation, you can hardly imagine their rage when once again the sporting season draws to a close without a mention of any Icelandic achievements.

The Champions League is once again reaching its dying stages without a single team from north of the liable-to-be-raped-by-a-polar-bear line. The World Cup is coming and even North Korea has found eleven unstarved players to field.

Worse, Liverpool – who’ve signed three Icelandic players in their history – have managed to somehow scramble into the semi-finals of the Europa League, and is not taking their 16 yr old Icelandic “talent” Kristjan Emilsson with them.

So what did Iceland do?

They erupted a giant fucking volcano, grounding all flights in Europe, causing $200 million of revenue loss each day for several days, and forcing football teams across Europe to travel by train like a bunch of 19th century romantic novel protagonists.

According to my source in Reykjavik, Heyant Mysson, “Iceland is willing to erupt another volcano if FIFA won’t grant us an invitation to the World Cup.”

Betting: Fun for all the Family

By David S. Wills

Some people are against betting. I think that makes these people uptight fools, but that’s just my humble opinion. I’m not saying betting is a good thing. On the contrary, betting is foolish, but so is drinking and smoking, and they’re both pretty cool.

For some people it’s a religious thing, and for others it’s common sense. I can understand the common sense factor. After all, I rarely bet. It doesn’t make much sense. Betting is silly. But it’s fun. And as I mentioned above, silly things are often fun.

What pisses me off is when people apply their morality to others. Religion is the biggest perpetrator of this foul deed. Just because your book says don’t bet doesn’t meant that others have to follow suit. You can find out soon enough that betting is silly. Try losing all your money to a faceless casino.

That makes me think that the sensible thing to do is to encourage betting. Why not have mandatory field trips to the casino for school kids. Let them lose their lunch money and go hungry for a few days. See if they still think betting’s cool.

I used to bet on the World Cup, even from a young age. I did it with my family and my friends, and I’ll do it again this year. (Just don’t go telling the authorities. That sort of thing doesn’t fly in Kimchi Country.)

The best bets involve small amounts of cash, or freakishly good odds. They also involve short waits. I wouldn’t want to stick $100 on Man Utd to win the Premiership. I’d rather choose teams for the World Cup with the winner buying drinks, or put a few pennies on the newly promoted team from the Championship to make it into Europe.

My favourite bet of all time (not involving myself – something another person did) was an old guy who bet that Xabi Alonso would score a goal from within his own half. He did, and the old gent made off like a bandit.

My own betting triumph came a few years back whilst watching Liverpool. Javier Mascherano walked onto the field looking more like a rapist than normal and I shouted to my dad. “Dad! Phone the bookies! Tell them he’s getting sent off by halftime! What odds?!”

I put a measly pound on Mascherano’s red card and he was sent off in about half an hour. The money meant nothing. The pride came in simply being right.

Which is why I enjoy Fantasy Football. I’m keenly aware that that makes me a nerd and a loser, but it’s also a glowing light in my life. I can bark at the TV all I like, but when I pick the perfect eleven and shoot to the top of the league I feel invincible.

(It should be noted that I’m currently bottom of my Fantasy Football league. The lesson: Never bet against Frank Lampard, regardless of how much you hate him.)

Here are some bets I plan on making in the coming years, with the odds I anticipate being given. They may not make me rich, but I like to back the right fighter.

Top non-Old Firm SPL player to sign for Rangers or Celtic and spend the rest of career on the bench – 1/10

Shaun Wright-Phillips to sprint past the ball at least five times during a game – 1/5

Arsenal to lose a key player to injury, having based their entire team around him all season, consequently costing them their title bid – 1/4 (Quote from Legbrokes.com)

Arsene Wenger to blame the injury on a conspiracy – 1/4

Craig Bellamy to switch teams in a storm of animosity – 1/3

Real Madrid to attempt to unsettle key Premiership player by having his friends claim he’s already agreed to move to Spain – 1/2

Alex Ferguson to say something racially/culturally/socially unacceptable, then to apologise and walk away without punishment – Evens

Sex scandal involving top Man Utd and Chelsea players – Evens

Rafa Benitez fired – 5/1

Non-Old Firm SPL team to win the league without Rangers or Celtic being penalized for sectarian abuse – 1000/1

North Korea to win World Cup – 2000/1 (this is an actual quote from William Hill)