FIFA Wary of Upsetting N.Korea at World Cup

      June 18, 2010 07:17

      Two teams are getting the most media attention in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. One is Argentina, which is managed by Diego Maradonna and features Lionel Messi, the FIFA World Player of the Year, and the other is the secretive North Korean team.

      The North Korean team is getting a lot of media attention for things other than sporting prowess. Everything about the team is veiled in secrecy, from its closed-door practice sessions and training stadium in a shanty town to its unique weight training program. With the North returning to the World Cup stage for the first time in 44 years, even FIFA officials are at a loss for words whenever the subject of North Korea comes up.

      The team does give interviews though. FIFA requires teams to hold one open practice session before the World Cup starts and to allow journalist to cover practice sessions and hold press conferences. Only one closed-door practice is allowed ahead of a match. North Korea abides by basic FIFA regulations, but shifts its schedule frequently and changes its mind at the last minute to hold closed-door practice sessions.

      The North Korean team's press conferences are also quite interesting. One thing journalists must avoid saying during those events is "North Korea." Reporters are told sternly to refer to the communist country as "Chosun" or the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" or just the "People's Republic." When a South Korean journalist accidentally said "North Korea" during a recent press conference, coach Kim Jong-hun pointed out testily, "There's no such country called North Korea. Only the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."

      FIFA exercises tremendous influence with its financial clout and sports diplomacy, but it has been very accommodating to North Korea, since an unexpected move by the North could throw a spanner into the event. FIFA seems to be very protective of its lucrative broadcasting rights, but it is lenient when it comes to North Korea. The North has aired several taped broadcasts of major games illegally, but it seems FIFA is not taking any action.

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