The most secretive World Cup qualifier ever: North and South Korea will play against each other today with no live broadcast, no visiting fans and no international media allowed
- North and South Korea were drawn in the same World Cup qualifying group
- Teams will play their first ever competitive match in Pyongyang on Tuesday
- But the North has banned spectators and reporters coming from the South
- Game will not be broadcast live, with text updates unlikely due to bad internet
North and South Korea are due to play against each other in an historic World Cup qualifying match on Tuesday – but almost nobody outside Pyongyang will be able to follow the action after the regime slapped a near-total blackout on coverage.
Kim’s regime has banned South Korean spectators or journalists from attending the game, and said the match will not be broadcast live on television or online.
The Korea Football Association, based in Seoul, has been allowed to send two staff to observe the match, but said it is unlikely they will be able to send text updates due to poor internet connections.
Despite the international ban the Kim Il Sung stadium is still expected to be filled with North Korean fans, giving the team a considerable home advantage.
South and North Korea will play against each other in an historic World Cup qualifying match in Pyongyang on Tuesday, but almost nobody outside the city will be able to follow the action (pictured, South Korean players during a training session)
South Korea has been banned from bringing supporters or journalists to the match, and official say text updates are unlikely because of poor internet signal
The KFA told fans to watch its social media accounts where it will post any updates it is able to glean from the Kim Il Sung stadium.
Park Jae-sung, from the KFA, said if that doesn’t work out, the KFA would have to relay updates from the Asian Football Confederation or from the sport’s world governing body, FIFA.
North Korea has agreed to provide South Korea with a tape of the match before officials leave the country, meaning a recording will be screened at a later date.
‘We have no idea how things will be at the stadium,’ Park said.
The game will be the first competitive meeting between the national men’s teams in the North Korean capital, although the North hosted the South for a friendly in 1990.
As recently as last year the North and South had used sport as a way to try and bridge divisions between the two countries by competing under the same flag at the Winter Olympics, which was held in the South.
But following a breakdown in negotiations with the US over Kim’s nuclear arsenal, the North has severed almost all cooperation with Seoul.
It has also repeatedly ignored the South’s calls for discussions on media coverage issues and allowing South Korean cheer squads for Tuesday’s game.
South Korean national football team head coach Paulo Bento (left) speaks to reporters ahead of the match in Pyongyang
‘There was no response from the North, and we find this regrettable and sad,’ Lee Sang-min, spokesman of Seoul’s Unification Ministry, said during a briefing on Monday.
The KFA anticipates that its two Group H matches against North Korea and the away game against Lebanon will be critical in the Asian qualifying campaign for the 2020 World Cup in Qatar.
The second match between the Koreas is scheduled for June 4 next year in South Korea.
South Korea has a stronger team on paper, led by the likes of Son Heung-min, a star for Tottenham in the English Premier League.
But for Tuesday’s game, North Korea will have unique home advantage with the 50,000 capacity Kim Il Sung Stadium expected to be full and entirely devoid of South Korean fans.
Group H also includes Lebanon, Turkmenistan, and Sri Lanka.
During qualification for the 2010 World Cup, North Korea chose to host games against South Korea at a neutral venue in Shanghai, refusing to hoist the South Korean flag and play the South Korean anthem on its soil.
The fate of the game in Pyongyang was uncertain until last month when the soccer’s Asian governing body informed the KFA that the North decided it would host the qualifier as scheduled.