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FIFA president 'disappointed' by empty stands at Pyongyang stadium

FIFA president 'disappointed' by empty stands at Pyongyang stadium

Posted October. 17, 2019 07:29,   

Updated October. 17, 2019 07:29


Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) President Gianni Infantino raised an issue on North Korea’s behavior after watching the second rounds of the Asian qualifying for the 2022 Qatar World Cup between South Korea and North Korea held at the Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang on Tuesday. In the interview notes posted on the FIFA’s website after the match, the president expressed big disappointment over the match with neither live broadcasting nor any audience.

“We were surprised by this and by several issues related to its live broadcast and problems with visas and access for foreign journalists. For us, freedom of the press and freedom of speech are obviously paramount,” Infantino said. “We will certainly keep pushing so that football can have a positive influence on Korea DPR (North Korea) and other countries around the world.” The FIFA also reported that its president discussed with relevant officials from the two Koreas plans for a joint Korean 2023 Women's’ World Cup. However, those in both domestic and international sports community are doubting whether jointly hosting an event with North Korea would be feasible as the country ignores international sports rules and behaves on its own.

It is deemed that the reason behind North Korea’s control over foreign reporters and even the audience is because the country is utilizing football as a way to promote its political system in and outside the country. That is to host a series of international sports events to emphasize its position as a “leading country” while promoting its system with it wins. “North Korea has been highlighting its image as a ‘strong country’ with a host of missile launches,” said Professor Go Yoo-hwan of North Korean Studies at Dongguk University. “When it comes to sports events, it seems that the country would only reveal to the public when it wins while trying to hide the events that it is likely to lose.”

Yun-Cheol Jeong trigger@donga.com · Won-Joo Lee takeoff@donga.com