It’s been 50 years since Pak’s shocker

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS -

PY­ONGYANG, KOREA — It has been five decades since Pak Du Ik scored the win­ning goal in North Korea’s shock­ing up­set of Italy to reach the quar­ter-fi­nals at the 1966 World Cup, a match that re­mains the coun­try’s most mem­o­rable in foot­ball folk­lore.

“Now, 50 years later, if I think of that time, I was re­ally young ... and al­though Italy was a very strong team, we beat them, the strong team,” Pak said in a re­cent in­ter­view with As­so­ci­ated Press Television News to com­mem­o­rate the an­niver­sary.

“I still haven’t lost the feel­ing of hap­pi­ness from that. Also, I can still re­mem­ber re­ally clearly the way the Bri­tish crowds sup­ported our team.”

North Korea ended Italy’s run at the tour­na­ment with the 1-0 win at Mid­dles­brough, Eng­land, on July 19, 1966, then lost to Por­tu­gal in the quar­ter-fi­nals.

A group of play­ers re­turned to the sta­dium in Mid­dles­brough in 2002 to cel­e­brate again the win over Italy.

North Korea has reached the men’s World Cup fi­nals only once since then — los­ing all three group games in 2010. The ’66 per­for­mance re­mained the best run by an Asian team at the mar­quee tour­na­ment un­til South Korea’s surge to the semi­fi­nals in 2002.

While teenage play­ers re­call that North Korea beat Italy in ’66, some are vague on the de­tails. Jang Ky­ong Il, coach of the na­tional un­der-14 women’s team, is among those who want to en­sure the high­lights live on. “Still, up un­til now, for us Korean sports­peo­ple here, Pak Du Ik is a real sports hero.”

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