Football fuels dream of Korean unity - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Football fuels dream of Korean unity

16/06/2010 04:22:51 PM Comments (0)

North Korea's first World Cup goal for 44 years brought delight to the isolated communist nation's fans and stoked dreams of football reunification with South Korea.

While their tireless team eventually went down 2-1 to Brazil, supporters based in both Japan and South Korea saw great credit in the performance as North Korea returned to the finals for the first time since blazing a trail in 1966.

Not long after the game ended in a chilly Johannesburg, Pyongyang's official news agency praised its team for a "fierce" fight as fans singled out star striker Jong Tae-Se - nicknamed Asia's Wayne Rooney - for praise.

"Even though our compatriots lost the game, the team scored a goal. I'm proud of them as a blood brother," said a 34-year-old man who works for an organisation for ethnic Koreans in Japan.

"I hope some day, the two Koreas will be united and we'll be able to play in one team together," said the man, who only wanted to be identified as Jon.

Japan, which occupied the Korean peninsula until the end of World War II, is home to almost one million ethnic Koreans, many of them children of former forced labourers. Up to 100,000 of them are believed to be loyal to Pyongyang.

One group gathered at a bar in the outskirts of Tokyo to watch the game, which kicked off just before dawn in Japan.

"We were so excited because two of the players are based here," said Paku Sun-Fui, 23, who works for an organisation for young Koreans in Japan.

Jong, who broke down in tears during his side's national anthem, and midfielder An Yong-Hak play in the J-League.

Jong holds South Korean nationality like his parents, who are descendants of immigrants from colonial Korea, but managed to obtain a North Korean passport after attending patriotic pro-Pyongyang schools in Japan.

"When Jong Tae-Se got involved in the goal, we screamed," said Paku. "Although the team lost the game to Brazil, we beat them in our strong will."

The impoverished communist state received the toughest draw in this year's tournament, landing in Group G with Brazil, Ivory Coast and Portugal.

Undeterred, the North has been swept by World Cup fever, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper reported this week, with people glued to television sets despite a squabble over rights with a South Korean broadcaster.

For Koreans, the backdrop to the tournament has been coloured by accusations that North Korea sank a South Korean warship in March with the loss of 46 lives.

But political divisions were put aside as South Korean fans, whose own team got off to a flying start with a 2-0 victory over Greece, heaped praise on their ethnic kin in Internet postings.

"I'm shedding tears now. You fought so well," one wrote on the Yahoo Korea website.

"I am so proud of you. We are all Koreans," another post read.

A third commentator suggested that a unified Korean team could easily advance to the quarter-finals and might even win the cup.

"Jong Tae-Se was so impressive today. He understands football," the posting read.

North Korea's next game is against Portugal on Monday.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2024 AAP

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