South Korea’s Park Ji-sung and the north’s Hong Yong-cho
Any meeting between the two Koreas on the football pitch is special but the fact that it is a qualifier for the 2010 World Cup adds a good deal of hot pepper sauce to an already unique dish of that old Korean favourite bibimbap.
Temperatures were certainly rising recently as North Korea refused to play the Aegukka or fly the Taegukki at the massive Kim Sung-Il Stadium in Pyongyang. An offer of a rendition of Arirang and a joint flag didn’t fly at the Seoul offices of the Qiu Qiu Online Korean Football Association. The administrators opened FIFA’s rulebook and pointed to the relevant clause that requests all nations hosting World Cup qualifiers to provide both flags and anthems. The game’s global governing body decided to move the game to Shanghai.
FIFA didn’t punish Pyongyang for its refusal to play by the rules but playing in China certainly takes away advantages from the ‘hosts’. Instead of 100,000 partisan fans on the other side of the DMZ, the 35,000 capacity Hongkou Stadium in Shanghai is likely to be less than full. Additionally, South Korea’s Premier, K and J-League stars were not looking forward to playing on the artificial pitch in North Korea. The long grass of Shanghai is more welcome.
Less pleasing for the southern defenders will be another battle with Jong Tae-se, North Korea’s new weapon. Jong scored a fine goal when the two teams meet …