Weird football match
NK should follow international norms for sports
South Koreans — and people around the world — could not watch the Asian qualifying match for the 2022 FIFA World Cup between the two Koreas live on TV, Tuesday, as it was held in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
There were also no South Korean cheering squad or commentators at the Kim Il-sung Stadium. Only limited text broadcasting was available via portal sites in the South.
This is because North Korea rejected a live broadcast of the match, and refused to allow South Korean cheering squads and media into the country for the game. Officials from South Korea’s unification ministry, which handles North Korea-related affairs, said the North promised to hand over a DVD copy of the game before the South Korean team departs Pyongyang for Beijing at 5:20 p.m. today. South Korean television networks can then broadcast the match. What a weird situation.
Besides the importance of the match for South Korea’s pursuit of a ticket to the finals, it was the first match between the national football teams of the two Koreas in Pyongyang for 29 years. It was possible because the two Koreas were placed in the same group for the second round of the 2022 World Cup qualification.
But South Korean fans couldn’t watch it live on TV. It was really sad that North Korea disallowed live TV coverage, whatever the reasons. South Korean officials who accompanied the team to Pyongyang were only allowed to use the internet at the press center in the stadium.
South Koreans cannot help but have mixed feelings about the match, with the inter-Korean peace drive remaining halted due to the deadlocked denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington. Rather, tensions between the two Koreas are escalating over the North’s continued missile provocations.
Apart from the political meanings of the game, the match itself was not fair at all. As the host of the game, North Korea should have provided all possible assistance for the visitors even though we can hardly expect the same level of service North Koreans enjoy as visitors here. Ensuring live media coverage and free access for fans to the game was the least the host should do for an international match. But North Korea doesn’t seem to have this notion.
It was not strange that BBC News, in a game prereview, described the Pyongyang match as the “world’s strangest football derby,” pointing out the lack of a live broadcast, fans from the South and foreign media at all in the stands.
It is just hardly understandable how this odd sort of match was made possible. Of course, the prime responsibility should be shared by the Korea Football Association of South Korea, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation.
For players, being part of a match in such an environment could have been something special. But it was a World Cup qualifying game, not like past friendly matches, with political connotations. This is a whole different story for the team.