October 16, 2019 10:10
South Korea on Tuesday drew 0-0 with North Korea in Pyongyang in their second-round Asian qualifier for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The rare match -- the first inter-Korean face-off on North Korean soil in almost three decades -- took place in an empty stadium, creating a bizarre experience for fans trying to follow it online.
Both South and North Korea now have two wins and a draw in their group, which also includes Lebanon, Sri Lanka and Turkmenistan. However, South Korea leads on goal difference, by 10 to 3.
In what turned out to be an anti-climax after much pre-game excitement, the match was held in bizarre circumstances, lacking a live broadcast, fans or media presence. The North did not allow the match to be broadcast, and denied entry to South Korean media. Those concerned, like officials from the Korea Football Association, media outlets and football fans, had to make do with brief updates on FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation's websites.
Despite the bizarreness of the match, South Korea's national anthem was played and its national flag was raised, as agreed.
The South Korean players, who braced themselves to play before for a huge crowd of spectators cheering on the North Korean squad, were surprised to find the stands empty. "It was the opposite of how we pictured it, because North Korea told us a day before the match that some 40,000 people would come," a KFA official said.
Some China-based tour agencies specializing in trips to North Korea sold package tours to Pyongyang including admission tickets to the match, but they apparently canceled the tour programs.
Foreign correspondents were also not admitted, and only a handful of foreigners, including FIFA president Gianni Infantino, watched the match. He recently proposed that the two Koreas make a joint bid for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.
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