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Son finds it a relief to avoid injury at inter-Korean match

Son finds it a relief to avoid injury at inter-Korean match

Posted October. 18, 2019 07:33,   

Updated October. 18, 2019 07:33


“The mere fact that I have returned without any injury is a great achievement made in Pyongyang,” South Korean national team captain Son Heung-min made sarcastic comments despite the failure to win a game. The South Korean national team had the “Korean Derby” second round of the Asian qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup held at Kim Il Sung Stadium on Tuesday without anyone in the stands and any live broadcasting available. The national team returning from an away match, which ended in a 0-0 draw, in Pyongyang to Seoul early Thursday morning.

All the South Korean players said in one voice that the match was a “fighting game.” “It was no different than war,” said Korea Football Association Vice President Choi Young-il. “North Korean players swung their elbows or stretched out their knees to win a header ball.”

Lagging behind in the FIFA’s rankings, the 113th ranking North Korean national team aimed to gain the upper hand and overcome their weakness by playing aggressive against its South Korean counterpart that ranks 37th. With two yellow cards given to both teams, the match suffered frequent pauses for the referee to hold back the North’s aggressive playing. Tottenham Hotspur attacker Son was the main target during the match. “I ought to speak honestly as an athlete. Some North Korean players used offensive words, which I would hope to get over,” Son answered when asked if any foul language was heard. “ They might have showed too sensitive response as part of their strategy.”

The way North Korea treated South Korean players just made them exhaust. It took two hours and 30 minutes to go through immigration at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport. South Korean players were left in isolation without their mobile phones for the three days. Added to this, North Korean soldiers were dispatched everywhere to keep a close eye on the South Korean players. However, the footballers overcame such difficulties looking on the bright side.

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