The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea touched down in South Africa this week as Kim Jong-Hun and his troops edge closer to kicking off their
In a bid to bolster their attacking options, North Korea listed Amrokgang striker Kim Myong-Won as a goalkeeper in an attempt to cover between the sticks in case of injury or suspension to their first and second choice keepers. However, after the intervention of FIFA, Kim is now only allowed to play in goal due to the fact that he is officially registered under the position of goalkeeper. The rules dictate the following: “The three players listed as goalkeepers can only play as goalkeepers during the FIFA World Cup and cannot play outfield. This will be communicated to the teams in the team arrival meetings and will be enforced on match days. So to answer the question regarding the North Korean player concretely: Kim Myong-Won will not be allowed to play as an outfield player if he has been put on the list as a goalkeeper.”
The confirmation of the fate of Kim Myong-Won will be a hugely frustrating blow to Korea DPR as they now have to face the might of Brazil, Ivory Coast and Portugal one striker down. The player himself must surely also be inconsolable, knowing that he is unlikely to feature in the biggest sporting event North Korea have been involved in recent decades. However, despite the hic-up, many players have been speaking out with a confident attitude towards the nation’s chances. Key midfielder Ahn Yong-Hak described how he and his teammates are doing everything they can to make sure they make an impact in this year’s tournament: “It will not be easy but there are no easy games at the World Cup. Whoever we play, we will do our best and can get good results. It is true that we lack international experience but right until the start of the tournament we are trying to supplement our experience with a number of friendly matches,”
Star striker Jong Tae-Se has also revealed how seriously he is taking the World Cup, from training right through to diet: “I’ve decided to dedicate myself fully to football this year because of the World Cup.” The Kawasaki Frontale hit-man added: “You can have good confidence only after you’ve worked on what you have to do everyday. Without that, you cannot expect to do well in the World Cup.” Such comments from Jong and Ahn Yong-Hak only help re-affirm the notion that the Chomilla are arguably the most prepared and driven of all the nations competing in South Africa.
Lack of team spirit is also not an issue, despite the fact Ahn plus striker Jong Tae-Se both play in Japan. These players earn a princely £4 000-per-week, whereas those based at home are on a minimal state allowance. This leads to no sort of divide in the dressing room however, reiterated by Ahn when he stated: “I am not the first North Korean player to be based in Japan and the other players have always been really nice to me. It was really impressive the way the players welcomed me and the way the North Korean government and people treated me.”
One thing that Korea DPR will need in order to succeed in this tournament is support. While many natives of the small Asian nation will be present in South Africa to cheer on their heroes, those who stayed at home are set to face a television blackout after a fall-out with neighbours South Korea over coverage rights. While not known for being the most vocal followers, the North Korean support will require the back-up of outside influences. By putting in eye-catching performances in their opening fixtures, Korea DPR can put themselves firmly in the spotlight and gain the support of the neutral who loves to rally round the underdog. The imagination of the English public was truly grabbed hold of in 1966 when North Korea beat Italy 1-0 in Middlesbrough, sparking the headline from The Times: “Rarely have supporters taken a team to their hearts as the football followers of Middlesbrough have taken these whimsical Orientals.” Were the Chomilla to repeat such a scoreline against any of their group opponents, it would be considered a remarkable success whether they qualify for the next round or not.