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North Korean Soccer Is On the Rise

Posted December. 15, 2006 07:15,   


It seems like the North Korean soccer team is rising to the top once more.

North Korean soccer used to be strong in the 1960s and 1970s, but they were gradually forgotten on the international stage in the 1980s. Now they are sweeping the world again.

The North Korean women’s soccer team, in particular, is improving fast. It earned a tie with the Japanese team without allowing any goals in 120 minutes of the whole game and overtime in the finals at the 2006 Doha Asian Games on December 14. North Korea won the gold medal, 4 to 2 on penalty kicks. It is the team’s second consecutive gold after the 2002 Busan Games.

The women’s soccer team from North Korea won the Asian Women’s Championships in 2001 and 2003 as well for two consecutive times. What is striking is that it conquered the FIFA U-20 Women’s World championship in September. It was the first team, considering all of the men’s and women’s teams in Asia, to win at a FIFA game.

The Asian Football Confederation awarded Choi Gwang Seok, coach of the women’s U-20 team of North Korea the AFC Coach of the Year, its U-20 team the AFC Women’s Team of the Year, and the North Korea Football association the AFC Association of the Year awards.

The men’s team from North was great as well. It advanced to the quarterfinals at the 2006 Doha Asian Games. Although it was defeated by the South Korean team, 0-3, it attracted attention since it revealed its efforts, such as adopting a “3-4-3 Formation,” to meet the trend of the developed soccer.

The Men’s U-20 team boasted of astonishing progress. It won over Japan in the finals of the U-19 Asian Championship last month, thereby reaching the top in 30 years.

North Korean soccer had emphasized physical strength, speed and teamwork traditionally. However, from the late 1990s, it has started to learn the tendency of advanced soccer as it sends players to foreign countries such as Russia. It also launched various training for international coach certificate.

Some analyze that it is the result of long-lasting support of North Korean government, which is a closed country, because soccer can attract international attention. The combination of government support, North Korean players’ physical and mental strength, and advanced techniques, are propelling North Korean soccer forward on the international stage.